Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Special Contributor to ZAGSBLOG.comWEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — On the same night his former team set a franchise record for ineptitude, Isiah Thomas dropped his first game in the metropolitan area as a college coach.
Facing a raucous anti-Isiah crowd, Florida International dropped to 0-2 after falling, 99-70, Friday at Monmouth’s new Multipurpose Activity Center.
Thomas, the former coach and president of the Knicks, was loudly booed as he walked onto the court to take his seat on the bench and one fan held up a sign that read “FIU: Fire Isiah University.”
“I’m used to being in hostile arenas,” Thomas said, according to The Associated Press. “As an athlete and as a former ‘Bad Boy,’ every place we went to was kind of this kind of environment. So I’m used to dealing with tough environments.”
Thomas’ team played lackluster defense and failed to shut down the opposing team’s best player, Travis Taylor, who led the winners with 18 points. Former Rutgers guard Justin Sofman added 13 points in 14 minutes in his first game since transferring and sitting out a year.
Thomas’ team was coming off an 88-72 loss Monday at defending NCAA champion North Carolina.
That same day, his mother, Mary, underwent heart surgery following a heart attack. He told reporters she’s feeling better.
“It’s been a stressful week,” Thomas told the AP.
Thomas entered the court to a raucous student section behind the FIU home basket booing at the top of its lungs. His team was down by 10 points early in the game, 23-13, to the enjoyment of most in attendance. Chants of “Magic Johnson,” “Sexual Harassment,” and “Fire Isiah” ensued.
He was constantly heckled by fans throughout the game, and he said one adult fan accosted him and used profane language after the game.
“There was a gentleman that I don’t even think he goes to school here and he’s not even in college, but he got out of line and security put him back in line, which was good,” Thomas said. “He didn’t grab me. If he did that, then I would have had the right to go Charles Barkley on him.
“I think the students were well in line and in-bounds in terms of the chants and the things they were saying. It was all in good spirit.
“But for someone who was older to act that way and conduct himself in that manner, particularly at a college game and a college environment, he should have known better.”
Thomas was forced to huddle his players before the first mandatory time-out in the first half. His team trailed by eight at halftime and was outscored by 21 points in the second half.
Brooklyn’s Marvin Roberts led FIU with 21 points.
Monmouth coach Dave Calloway said he believes Thomas can turn things around.
“It takes time,” Calloway told the AP. “Recruiting is a big part of it. Guys are going to want to go play for him because he’s an NBA guy. Everybody wants to play in the NBA.”
(The AP contributed)Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.