When Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas started coaching a YMCA youth basketball team in Eugene, Duck fans thought a number of things, all of them positive. His gesture promoted team play, community outreach, and volunteerism. It gave the general public a look inside one of Oregon's larger-than-life stars, and showed that the Black Momba is more than just a speed demon.
And as it turns out, that simple decision has changed the course of Oregon football.
On Monday morning, now-former Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas informed AD Rob Mullens and the coaching staff that he would not be attending spring practices, and instead was immediately flying to Los Angeles to meet with Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni and his staff as they prepare for Tuesday night's game against Dallas. D'Antoni contacted Thomas over the weekend, and presented him with an unthinkable proposal:
Quit football, and come join the Lakers coaching staff. And Thomas said yes.
It's a life changing decision. Thomas would have been a Heisman frontrunner going into 2013, and has the skillset necessary to carve out a career in the NFL despite his small size. So why drop it all to go coach basketball?
First, it's the healthy choice; if Thomas can truly make a career out of coaching, he could have a job in sports for sixty years, rather than the dozen, at best, he'd be likely to see as an athlete. Second, he's returning home. Thomas has expressed his love for Eugene, but for a kid from Los Angeles, getting the opportunity to help coach the Lakers is something that can't be passed up. He's also getting into the coaching game incredibly early. If he matures as an educator, and is able to learn from the best like Coach D'Antoni, he could be an NBA head coach by 30 or 35. We already know he has the demeanor to coach up second-graders; how different could professionals possibly be?
The Lakers have underperformed all season; their star-studded cast of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard has only been able to manage a 38-36 record so far this season, and are in danger of missing the playoffs. Blame for this season will undoubtedly fall on the coach. And Mike D'Antoni, either in a stroke of genius or desperation, is turning to a man who had never coached a group of adults in basketball in his life. But if De'Anthony Thomas is willing to risk his career, it must be more than just a publicity stunt.
Good luck to DAT in the NBA, and I hope you've enjoyed ATQ's April Fools Day coverage. Good night everybody!