Florida International had us all fooled. If getting trounced by the defending national champions can help the "greater good," that's OK with the Panthers.
The Panthers' athletic director, Pete Garcia, bitterly complained last week that Isiah Thomas' FIU coaching debut would be against North Carolina. Garcia claimed that the event's organizer, the Gazelle Group, was reneging a previous agreement that FIU would play Ohio State. FIU even considered withdrawing from the event.
But it turns out Thomas isn't above a good thumping. (And why not? His Knicks were certainly used to them.)
FIU agreed Tuesday it will participate in the Sept. 9 Coaches vs. Cancer event, noting that the benefits outweighed any detriment of playing the Heels.
"We felt that after everything that has been said and done over the last eight or nine days that the biggest benefit and the biggest winners in our decision to play in this tournament is going to be the American Cancer Society," Garcia said Tuesday.
Thomas, who didn't make any public statements last week, echoed that thought.
"We are honored to play against North Carolina, the defending national champions. We are happy to participate in the cause and we are proud to be invited and want to help promote the American Cancer Society in any way we can."
Apparently it took a week to figure out that the proper spin wasn't "Hey! We don't want to get trounced by UNC!" but "Carolina can certainly have its chance to crush us if it helps fight cancer."
And all signs do point to a resounding Tar Heel victory. The Heels lost a host of players from their title squad, but have some key players returning and a good recruiting class. Thomas isn't sure he'll start anyone taller than 6-7.
He's OK with that. After all, they could give UNC a scare, but probably not..
"We're really looking forward to that night. We want to teach our students and our student-athletes that it's not always going to be an easy walk. Sometimes you have to take some painful steps."
True enough. But usually those painful steps don't include public relations.