Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Fired Three Times in Three Years, Adubato Soldiers On
The professional life of a Division 1 basketball assistant is often tenuous, uncertain and fraught with instability.
Perhaps no one can attest to this more than Scott Adubato, who has been fired three times in three years at three different schools.
Adubato was an assistant under Bobby Gonzalez at Seton Hall before that staff’s tumultuous existence came to an end in 2010.
The next year he caught on with Barry “Slice” Rohrssen at Manhattan, only to be fired again in 2011.
And then after brief stints coaching with the Playaz Basketball Club AAU program and with the Chinese League team where Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith played, Adubato returned to the U.S. to join Isiah Thomas’ staff at Florida International, only to be fired yet again earlier this month.
So here he is again, at 48 and after 23 years of coaching, looking for yet another job in the college ranks.
“When I get off the phone now, I’m going to call [a Division 1 head coach],” Adubato, the son of former NBA and WNBA coach Richie Adubato, said of a coach whose identity he asked to be withheld. “I think he has some movement.”
Adubato is highly “disappointed” with how Thomas and his staff were treated by FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia.
“Isiah did not deserve to be fired after three years,” Adubato said of of the former Knicks coach and president, who went 26-65 in three seasons at FIU. “We had a very good class coming in.”
Adubato said that FIU had committed recruits Antoine Myers, Milton Doyle and Tim Williams and their families on campus when Thomas was fired April 6 and asked to pack his belongings. Adubato had landed freshman center Lekan Ajayi and FIU was also involved with St. Anthony power forward Jerome Frink and Plainfield point guard Sekou Harris.
“We had our three top recruits there that day with their family and friends and I had all three of them in my office and Isiah came back down and said, ‘I’m fired,'” Adubato said.
“The AD knew we had all our recruits in town. These kids are all committed. These kids are all very good players that wanted to be there because of Isiah.”
There were about 12 people in the basketball offices, including other assistant coaches, players and recruits, when Adubato said he called Garcia “and the guy never came out of his office. All he had to do was say, ‘Coaches, look, why don’t you bring the recruits back to the hotel. I really don’t want them to see this.’ Forty-five minutes later we got human resources and police at our door. We had recruits there and they’re telling me get my stuff out of my office and the whole staff.
“I’ve been a part of six firings and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it handled, the worst.”
By contrast, Adubato said that when the staffs at Seton Hall and Manhattan were fired, the athletic directors, Joe Quinlan of Seton Hall and Bob Byrnes of Manhattan, sat down with the coaching staffs and explained the reasoning.
“You know what direction that you were going as an assistant coach,” Adubato said.
In a statement released the day Thomas was fired, Garcia said: “We want to thank Isiah Thomas for his three years here at FIU. However, we have decided to take the program in a different direction.”
Asked again about the way in which Thomas was fired during a press conference to introduce new coach Richard Pitino April 16, Garcia told the Miami Herald: “I appreciate the question. I said in the release [10 days] ago, I want to thank Isiah and his staff for the three years they put in to help put in to help build this program. I’ll always be grateful to his staff. I appreciate everything they did. I’m going to stick with that statement for right now. Today is about Richard Pitino and FIU basketball going forward.”
Since Thomas’ firing, FIU has again made headlines after sophomore Dominique Ferguson declared for the NBA Draft only after the school declined to release him so he could transfer. Ferguson told ESPN.com that he was planning to transfer closer to his home in the Midwest even before Thomas was fired.
“I wanted to be home and be more comfortable,” Ferguson told ESPN.com. “I had my meeting with the board, three people [who] had nothing to do with academics. It was supposed to be a nonbiased meeting. It seemed like it went great.
“I told them that I wanted to leave to go to a smaller school, that I needed more one-on-one smaller classes,” Ferguson said. “Four hours later I got an email on the decision that it was more beneficial for me to stay in Miami, at FIU. It was puzzling. I had never met them. They didn’t know me. I wanted to be near my family, a big family that I don’t ever see.”
While Pitino and FIU attempt to put the pieces back together after all this tumult and bad press, Adubato, too, soldiers on.
A veteran of the coaching casualties looking for yet another landing spot.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.