Former UConn Huskies guard Mel Thomas (2004-08) has decided to pursue a career in coaching as she works towards a graduate degree in business. Thomas, 24, recently joined the staff of Karl Smesko as the Director of Basketball Operations at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Fort Myers FL.

Mel ThomasAfter tearing her ACL in her senior season (2007-08) at UConn, Thomas missed out on the 2008 WNBA draft due to the injury. She later recovered well enough to play her first professional season in Ireland as a member of the Bausch and Lomb Waterford Wildcats of the Irish National Basketball League.

After a personally successfully season , Thomas returned home with the hope of playing in the WNBA. After being invited to training camp by the Seattle Storm last year she tore her meniscus in her knee just weeks before reporting and was unable to play once again until the fall. In October of 2009,, Thomas went off to play in Poland for Artego Bydgoszcz in the Polish league, PLKK.

This year after not being signed by a WNBA team and disappointed in her overseas experiences, Thomas has decided to try her hand at coaching and finds herself about to pursue her coaching career and her MBA (Masters of Business Administration) at FGCU starting this fall.

Recently, Sox & Dawgs asked Thomas a few questions about her new position, coaching, playing professionally and about her future. Always there will a smile and willing to answer just about anything Mel took some time from her busy schedule of studying for her GMAT’s (Graduate Management Admission Test), helping out at basketball camps and doing book signings for her book “Heart of a Husky” to answer these for us

They now run just as they were put to Mel and exactly how she answered them.

Sox & Dawgs: With your energy and drive, coaching seems like a natural progression for you but what made you decide to get into at this stage of your career?

Mel Thomas: “I love basketball more than anything, but playing overseas wasn’t the same. The basketball wasn’t as competitive and I missed the camaraderie I experienced with my high school and college teams. I knew I wanted to stay involved in the game, so coaching seemed like the best way to do it. I am really excited to get back into collegiate basketball”.

S&D: How did you hear about the Director of Operations position at FGCU? How long was the hiring process for you?

Mel: “When I returned from Poland, I didn’t know if I wanted to go overseas again. For about two months, I applied for GA (graduate assistant) positions, coaching jobs, and internships in order to see what opportunities were available to me. I went on a visit to FGCU, and they offered me the position. It was a difficult decision because I wasn’t sure that I would rather coach than play, but now I feel that I made the right choice”.

S&D: We know basketball staffs have the Director of Operations position but exactly what are you responsible for before, during and after games and practices?

Mel: As a Director of Basketball Operations, I will be responsible for making travel arrangements (hotels, flights), determining practice times, scheduling games, breaking down practice and game film, etc.

S&D: How long a commitment do you have to FGCU and will it prevent you from playing if you chose to do so?

Mel: “I will be at FGCU for a minimum of 2 years because I will be pursuing an MBA, in addition to the Director of Basketball Operations position. I will have the summers off, so it would be possible to play somewhere during the summer if I wanted to”.

S&D: I think many UConn fans expected to see you play in the WNBA but a couple of injuries set you back the last few seasons. Did you have any opportunities to play in the league this year? If not, were you surprised you didn’t get an opportunity?

Mel: “I was injured my senior year of college, so I didn’t have much of a chance to get drafted. The following year, I was invited to training camp with the Seattle Storm, but I tore my meniscus three weeks before I was supposed to report to camp. This year, I went to a free agent camp at the Final Four in San Antonio. My agent told me there weren’t many available spots in team training camps, so I was hoping for the best but expecting the worst. I didn’t get picked up, but I played really well and did everything I could so I left with my head held high. I clearly haven’t had the best luck, but I’m sure there is something great out there for me”

S&D: You played two seasons overseas, one in Ireland and one in Poland, what were those experiences like on and off the court?

Mel: “The basketball in Europe was very different than here in the States. The basketball wasn’t as competitive and no one took it as seriously, which was very hard for me to deal with. I usually only saw my teammates at practice. Most of them were busy with school, families, or other careers. I was lonely much of the time. On the other hand, I was getting paid to do what I love. I was able to experience other cultures and see the world, and I made lifelong friends.

I also attempted to learn other languages, which was fun. I am so grateful for the opportunity to play overseas and it was a great experience, but it’s not something I see myself doing for the next 10 years”.

S&D: Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 5 or 10 years?

Mel: “I would love to be involved in sports in some aspect. I am interested in coaching, training kids, sports marketing, communications, sports broadcasting, and event planning. I recently met a woman named Glennis Orloff who invented compression shorts that help improve posture and prevent ACL injuries. I am looking to get involved with her company as well (”.

Thanks everyone for your support!

Thomas, a native of Cincinnati Ohio, was a three year starter and two year team co-captain with Renee Montgomery. She ranks 31st on Uconn’s All-time scoring list with 1,098 points and is in the Top 5 of 3 point field goals made with 224. She was a 2008 CoSIDAWomen’s Basketball Academic All-District I First Team member, 2006 Big East Most Improved Player and Miss Basketball Ohio in her senior year (2004) at Mount Notre Dame High School. She brings a wealth of knowledge, skill and personal drive to her new job and we know the staff and players at FGCU are going to love her as much as her UConn fans do.

You can order Mel’s book through her website,

Photo credit: Depth of Field Photo