Kasdin says to attract alumni to support the athletic program, especially men's basketball, boosters need to be more honest. "Overall, hiring Isiah Thomas was a good move by the university," he says. "He is bringing quality players, and he knows how to develop talent. You have to take this season for what it is. Obviously, it would be great if we were winning."

Three days after losing to Arkansas State, FIU demolishes the University of Arkansas-Little Rock — a team that is 1-8 in Sun Belt Conference play — 96-81. After the game, Thomas, customarily dressed in an understated navy two-piece suit, enters the media room. The only reporters present are Miami Herald FIU sports beat writer Pete Pelegrin, two editors from the student newspaper, and a Miami New Times staff writer. The smattering of scribes bears little resemblance to the hostile hordes Thomas faced in New York.

Although the first year has been a dud, Thomas says, he is confident next season will pay off. He notes that Alex Legion, a highly touted former Parade All-American shooting guard, will soon arrive as a transfer from the University of Illinois. And he has secured a commitment from high school All-American Dominique Ferguson, who passed up offers from high-caliber basketball programs at Kentucky, UF, Duke, and the University of Connecticut.

Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas watches his Golden Panthers struggle to keep pace with the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
C. Stiles
Isiah Thomas watches his Golden Panthers struggle to keep pace with the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

"We have had a lot of success on the recruiting trail," Thomas says. Then he adds, with a touch of the same optimism that once motivated the Pistons: "That has been a huge plus. If you get the players, the people will come."

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