FIU basketball media day was Wednesday afternoon and new basketball coach Isiah Thomas sat down to talk about his Panthers and other interesting tidbits on his way to taking over the FIU basketball program.
Before we get the player-by-player breakdown of your Panthers by IT on here, this is some of what was talked about at today's lunch.
IT talked about when he first saw PG earlier this year at the national championship game between Florida and Oklahoma at Joe Robbie Stadium.
IT was going to meet UF hoops coach Billy Donovan at halftime, but Donovan got hung up in Patriots coach Bill Belichick's suite so IT went downstairs to meet PG.
About 1 month after the game, PG called IT and said "Think about this, but don't answer me just yet. How would you feel about coaching college basketball?"
IT thought about it. He says he researched FIU and before going on the internet the only thing he knew about FIU was involving the brawl with UM. However, he kept digging and saw that it had 38,000 students and was one of the 25 largest universities in the nation, and has the more than 140,000 alumni.
On his first trip to Miami, IT and PG wanted to keep the meeting low key so they went to what they thought would be a somewhat secluded restaurant on Fisher Island. Only problem with that was that when they got there, a Baltimore Raven was getting married and several Ravens at the wedding immediately recognized IT. The wedding stopped and the Ravens asked to take photos with IT and get his autograph. IT obliged.
Ravens defensive back Samari Rolle went over to PG and said: "Isiah Thomas and FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, I wonder what this is all about?" The low key went out the window.
At the time, IT was training for the Westchester (N.Y.) Triathlon -- not the Wes-ches-ta of Miami --. He liked the sport and was intrigued by the mentality and tenacity of tri-athletes. Or like IT said today: "Those people to me, that's the mentality that you need to play with because they don't stop."
IT has brought a little bit of the triathlon mental toughness to practice as senior forward Marlon Bright said: "He has put a lot of emphasis on mental toughness. In the second practice, after two hours of practice, he ran us more than I have ever run before in practice. You can see him trying to develop our mental toughness. Half of the battle is being mentally tough. That’s what set him apart as a player.”
On the second visit to Miami, IT was ready to take the job, but when he told his wife she said: "What?" and his accountant asked him "Are you sure?"
IT said: "You have to see what FIU can be and not what it is and that's why I'm here."
On his first month on the job, IT said he kept getting lost going to U.S. Century Bank Arena, because of all the entrances to FIU. So eventually, he used the Shell gas station on SW 8 Street and SW 107 Ave. as his landmark and then he would locate FIU Stadium and know the arena was down the street from there.
IT wanted to do the triathlon on Sept. 27, but PG told him he should keep recruiting. So he did.
Over the summer, IT played golf with former FIU great and current Heat guard Carlos Arroyo. IT said that "Carlos kept stressing to me that we have to bring back the fans and alumni. I told him if we can galvanize that base and get them to support this team it would be great."
Off to the side here....In case you didn't know, IT was asked about his popcorn company, Dale and Thomas. The brand is not available nationwide, but is at the Publix across from FIU. IT got into the popcorn business, because his favorite food growing up was popcorn. His mom used to make a big bowl for his family in Chicago when IT was a kid and they would all sit around the TV and watch "Batman" and the "Green Hornet". Guess what popcorn will be sold at FIU basketball games this season?
You can read a story on IT's first few months with FIU basketball in Thursday's Herald in both print and on-line.
Your Panthers football team will be wearing all white in Saturday's game against Louisiana, in part, because of the high noon kickoff. It will be the first time in the 8-year history of FIU football that the Panthers wear all white for a home game. And, no it is not being advertised as a Whiteout.
FIUFan: Hey Pete, when is the Herald going to start picking up on the outstanding success of the Volleyball team? I'm mean 21-2 'aint to shabby.
PP: FIUFan, I have written about the volleyball team in my local colleges column each week. However, I am working on a front page story that will include photos of the FIU ladies that will run before the Sun Belt Tournament gets underway. You are correct 21-2 ain't too shabby.
Gooch7: Pete any info on Recruits for this year?
PP: Still got a little more than 90 days to go, but the recruits are holding steady to their commits. Quarterback Jake Medlock has been cleared after his shoulder surgery and started throwing this week. He could be on target to be ready by camp in August. Running back Casey Turner is the latest commit. He could join running back Jeremiah Harden, who has been tearing it up in practice.
UltimateFIUFan: Pete, I haven't heard much from Kambriel Willis this season, is he injured or just not performing? How about Pooh Bear Mars? Is TY 100% for Sat? If yes, can we expect him on kick-off & punt returns? Status of Paul McCall? HE DESERVES A CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF VALOR FOR WHAT HE HAS GONE THROUGH! He is the polar-opposite of Dolphin’s Ted Ginn. PM has a pair, while Ginn lost his pair @ OSU!
PP: KW is not performing. Pooh Bear is getting closer each week to playing D, according to MC. I got a feeling this is the week we see Pooh Bear on D. TY is about 95%, not sure if he will be returning kicks. That is a game day decision. PMC is about 90-95% ready and yes he is the oppo of Ginn. In fact, even without his engineering degree, Paul already has secured a job with Company Jones or as it's known to most Co.Jones.