In yesterday’s NAIA DIRT, I mentioned that Delano Thomas would be hired as the new head basketball coach ay NAIA Florida Memorial. This move has now been made official – here’s the press release from the school:
Florida Memorial announces the hiring of NAIA National Championship coach Delano Thomas as men’s head basketball coach. The NAIA National Coach of the Year and the Don Meyer Coach of the Year brings championship experience to South Florida, including one of the best runs in the history of NAIA men’s basketball.
“When we set out to find our next head men’s basketball coach, we wanted to find someone who is a solid recruiter with a championship mindset that understands the importance of graduating student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Jason Horn. “We found that in Coach Thomas. He will be a great addition to our team of coaches, and his vision for our program resonated with our staff.”
Thomas constructed one of one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball history during his tenure at Shawnee State. During the 2020-21 season, he led the Shawnee State men’s basketball program from worst-to-first in their best season ever as a program, going 31-2 overall en route to its first-ever Men’s Basketball NAIA National Championship.
“This is an exciting moment for my family and I,” said Coach Thomas. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity at Florida Memorial, thankful for AD Horn, and the administration. I’m looking forward to getting to work and help elevate FMU.”
During the title run, the Bears started the season off 4-2 before winning 27 straight games, including the trifecta of a Mid-South Regular Season and Tournament Championship as well as an NAIA Tournament crown. The Bears generated one of the nation’s longest winning streaks, totaling 31 games over consecutive seasons. That year, Thomas earned the Mid-South Coach of the Year, NAIA Coach of the Year Award, the Don Meyer Coach of the Year Award and the HoopDirt.com NAIA Coach of the Year Award. Under Thomas’ tutelage, he coached three NAIA-All-Americans, eight all-conference selections, and guided nine of his players as they achieved professional basketball status overseas.
He also has a player actively playing professionally.
“One of our goals is to contend for championships,” explained AD Horn. “Delano Thomas is a proven winner and we look forward to Coach Thomas and his family joining us in South Florida as he fits in line with our motto – WIN. GROW. GRADUATE.”
Thomas spent two seasons on the men’s basketball team at Shawnee State from 2002-2004, ranking among the best in several categories in the program. A first-team NAIA All-American during the 2003-04 campaign and AMC Player of the Year recipient, Thomas ranks first in the program in blocked shots (148), first in rebounds per game average (11.5), 14th in scoring average per game (13.6) and 14th in assists per game (2.1). He was inducted into Shawnee State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.
A Columbus, Ohio, native, Thomas propelled his successful college campaign into a professional career spanning nine years and six countries across South America, Asia and Europe. In 2008-09, he was part of a Norwegian squad that won the BLNO Championship in Norway’s top professional basketball league. Thomas has also spent seasons in Portugal, Syria, Brazil, Uruguay and Germany.
During his time overseas, Thomas also gained valuable coaching experience. In 2007, he was the head coach of Montevideo High School in Uruguay where he led the squad to a 22-10 record. The following year, he was the head coach of Ulriken Elite in Norway for the U21, U18, and U14 boys, as well as the U14 girls’ squad.
From 2012-14, Thomas was the head coach for the U15 boys and girls of Ulriken Ung., in Norway. During his time there, he led the girls’ squad to a second place finish in the Bergen Region and a silver medal in the Hansa Cup. The boys side finished as the bronze medalists.