Even before Isiah Thomas was introduced as Florida International University’s new basketball coach this morning, Justin Forer saw another merchandising opportunity –- and outlet for fans, who might not think too highly of the controversial Thomas.
With the ink barely dry on Thomas’ contract on Tuesday, Forer had already posted “Fire Isiah University” (FIU, get it?) T-shirts for $20 apiece on his FireThatGuy.com Web site. They’re in Golden Panthers colors, too: blue and white and blue and gold.
Forer, 31, a Miami native, who recently moved back to the Magic City after a decade in New York, including Thomas’ rocky tenure with the New York Knicks, actually launched the business in 2005 with shirts calling for the firing of former University of Miami football coach Larry Coker. The shirt was so popular that Forer’s side business was born.
“At the time there was a big move to have Larry Coker fired,” Forer said. “FireThatGuy is not necessarily to hate coaches, but to give fans a chance to voice how they really feel.”
Although not an alum, Forer knows a thing or two about Miami football, having, as he says, “grown up in the endzone of the old Orange Bowl.” And about South Florida sports: his first foray into the sports souvenir business was in 1996 during the Florida Panthers’ Stanley Cup run when he bought cases of plastic rats and he and some friends sold them out of boxes on street corners in Miami.
For his second sports business, other coaches and general managers followed Coker. There were Isiah Thomas shirts from his time with the Knicks. And hats and baby bibs, too.
“I don’t know that we sold any baby bibs, but they were out there,” Forer said. “After Larry Coker, Isiah became the No. 1 seller.”
Forer said he thought about starting a blog, but decided the merchandise was a more proactive way to get fans involved. His other victims have included former New York Mets manager Willie Randolph and former Detroit Lions President Matt Millen. Current ones include Miami football coach Randy Shannon and Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis. Forer insists that only two targeted coaches – Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics and Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants -- “not only did not get fired … but went on to win championships.”
“I hope that Isiah is not walking around with a 'Fire Justin' T-shirt,” he said. “And to be honest, the shirts are all in good fun. Fans deserve a chance to voice their opinion, too.”