This will be the first of many updates on Zeke as he aims to bring FIU to national prominence.
Far away from the sold out crowds of Madison Square Garden and the hustle and bustle of Times Square Isiah Thomas finds himself cramped on a coach bus with his team in the midst of a seven-day road odyssey that will bounce the Golden Panthers from Huntington, W.Va., over to Louisville for a blistering 37-point Wednesday night loss to Rick Pitino’s team and on to Mississippi for a Saturday matchup with Jackson State. FIU routinely makes trips like these just to pay its bills. You might say why did they bother hiring a high profile coach like Zeke if they are having financial issues? Zeke being the man he is and financially stable due to good money management didn’t accept a salary from the team last season. He will only receive 1.1 million over 5 years but its clear money isn’t his motive. He’s putting his daughter, son and two nieces through Indiana University — where he has also endowed a scholarship in the school’s criminal justice department.
The question remains WHY? Why would one of the greatest players in NBA history take on such a position? Zeke says ““If I get another good recruiting class next year, then I think that will get me where I can play at least competitively against some of the bigger-name schools, I’m trying to win nationally. That’s what you’re doing it for. I mean, eventually that’s what you want to build your program up to. I don’t worry about, ‘Oh, you’ve won so much. You’ve got to play it safe. You’ve got to protect your legacy.’ I love basketball.”
So far this season FIU has gotten off to its first 4-1 start since the 2002-03 season. The roster he’ll be coaching in league play should soon be upgraded from the one he directed against Louisville. Alex Legion, a transfer from Kentucky and Illinois, is expected to join the team in the next two weeks. Forward Dominique Ferguson, a top 50 recruit who once orally committed to Kentucky, is expected to be eligible later this month. Zeke wants to prove he can win on this level in spite of the detractors who look to a bad situation in NY to slight him.
Back in NYC the Knicks are preparing for a tough stretch that has them playing against the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat days apart. Fans and bloggers are rightfully excited by the teams play but bring up Zeke and the worst comes out of seemingly educated people. Led by angry bloggers with their own agendas Zeke is public enemy number 1. It doesn’t deter Zeke though he rides that cold bus knowing better times are ahead.
“I was supposed to be dead at 18 or 19 in my neighborhood,” Thomas says. “I couldn’t see past that.
“Every day I wake up, I get to eat, I have a refrigerator full of food, I got a car that I can drive anywhere I want. And I can pay all my bills. Don’t worry about me. I’m good.”