Isiah Thomas spent his first day on the job at FIU talking more about controversy than basketball, clearing the air on his overdose and explaining why a big-name coach would come to the Miami school with a little known basketball program.
Speaking with reporters last night in his new office, Thomas took time to clarify the bizarre incident last October in which the embattled former Knicks coach overdosed on sleeping pills, then allegedly said it was his daughter who had overdosed.
"Yeah, that had to be me," Thomas said last night. "I was asleep."
Police had responded to a 911 call at Thomas' house that night and found a man passed out on the floor. Police officials chastised Thomas after The New York Post reported that he said it was his daughter, not him, who required treatment.
"On that day, my daughter and I were both in the hospital," Thomas said. "She went early in the afternoon, OK? I went later in the evening. When I woke up, there's a reporter on the other end and he said, 'Are you OK?' And I think I said, 'My daughter's in the hospital and no, we are not OK,' or something to that effect."
Thomas didn't say why his daughter was in the hospital, but confirmed he was the one found sprawled out on the floor. He said the incident was the last straw, and he immediately began looking for a fresh start outside of New York.
"People said, 'Well, why didn't you correct it?' And that's not how I live," Thomas said. "I've got to take care of my family. I didn't really care about correcting anything. My main focus was my family and that's always been my focus and that's what I'll always do."
Thomas did get around to talking basketball, and how he intends on bringing the Golden Panthers out of the NCAA darkness. The team hasn't reached the tournament since 1995.
"People know about us now," Thomas said. "It's about shining a light on the university and shining a light on how big a school we are. We've got an enrollment of 36,000 or 37,000 students. We're one of the largest universities in the United States. We're a hidden gem here, so to speak. And now we've got national attention and national exposure, so we've got to put a basketball program that reflects that."
Thomas, who may have a rough road ahead at FIU, says some friends tried to talk him out of taking the job, but he believes he's ready to tackle any challenges that come before him.
"At the end of the day," Thomas said, "people know the kind of person that I am."