Derek Thomas compiled a five-year record of 40-104, with his most successful season coming this year at 12-18. He led the Leathernecks to a 10-4 mark at home this season, earning the team’s best home court record since 1998-99. His highest finish in The Summit League was a tie for fifth place in 2004-05. The Leathernecks qualified for four conference tournaments under Thomas, losing in the first round four times.
Thomas brought 15 years of coaching experience to Macomb when he was hired prior to the 2003-04 season, and regularly brought highly-touted recruiting classes to Western Illinois. One of his first recruits was David Jackson, who earlier this season became the highest scorer in Western Illinois’ Division I era, and its first player to join the 1,000-point club since 1996. This year’s squad earned the highest team grade point average of any of Thomas’ teams. In 2005, HoopScoop named Thomas one of the top 30 up-and-coming coaches in America.
Prior to Western Illinois, Thomas spent two seasons as an assistant coach at UNLV under Charlie Spoonhour where he was instrumental in developing the offensive schemes that led the Mountain West Conference in scoring both seasons. Thomas served as the recruiting coordinator and big man coach for a Runnin’ Rebels squad that posted back-to-back 21-win seasons and NIT appearances. He also helped prepare point guard Marcus Banks for the 2003 NBA Draft. Banks was taken with the final lottery selection, 13th overall, by the Memphis Grizzlies before being traded to the Boston Celtics.
Experience Ranging from High School to the NBA
Prior to his duties at UNLV, the Kansas City, Mo., native served as a player personnel scout for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks under head coach Lon Kruger, whom he joined for a three-month stay at Illinois. While in Atlanta, Thomas worked with players such as Jason Terry and Dion Glover. From 1999-2000 Thomas was an assistant at Minnesota, handling duties as recruiting coordinator and defensive scheme coach. He also worked with post-player development and assisted with game and practice preparation, helping Joel Przybilla develop into a 2000 NBA Lottery pick.
Thomas served as an assistant on Spoonhour’s staff from 1995-99 at Saint Louis, where he was responsible for recruiting, on-floor coaching and videotape scouting. He was instrumental in the 1997 recruiting class that included the school’s first McDonald’s All-American, Larry Hughes. Hughes was named the 1998 National Freshman of the Year and was a 1998 NBA Lottery pick, while the 1997 class went on to two NCAA Tournaments and a Conference USA Tournament title.
Before becoming an assistant at Saint Louis, Thomas was the head coach of Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis. There he posted a 45-36 record and was named the Metro Catholic Conference Coach of the Year after winning the 1995 league title.
Thomas also served as a graduate assistant coach under Spoonhour at Missouri State from 1989-91, earning a master’s degree in educational administration in 1991 and helping the Bears to a 1990 AMCU regular season championship. He left Missouri State to become the restricted earnings coach at Saint Louis for the 1991-92 season.
Thomas is a 1989 graduate of Missouri-St. Louis, where he was an honorable mention All-MIAA player while earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He was co-captain of the Rivermen squad that reached the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen in 1988, and his college coaching career began as a student assistant at UMSL the following season. As an undergraduate, Thomas won a number of academic awards and was president of Phi Epsilon Kappa. He was also a co-captain at Johnson County (Kan.) Community College and a All-Jayhawk East selection in 1986. He was a standout at Hickman Mills High School in Kansas City, Mo., where was earned all-metro and all-state honors.
His father Emmitt is the secondary coach for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons after serving two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Emmitt was elected to the Kansas City Chiefs’ hall of fame after a 13-year playing career with the franchise.
Thomas, 41, and his wife, Julie, have four children, Bailey (10), Samantha (8), Jade (5) and Shane (4).