Stephen Cox distinctly remembers the day he interviewed for the Thomas men’s basketball coaching job.
Cox was fulfilling his third assistant coaching gig at Georgia Southwestern, and looking for an opportunity to run his own ship. But Cox was particularly picky of the prospect. He didn’t want to fall into a pit of a position and constantly struggle to recruit and win.
That scenario seemed to rear when he trekked to Thomasville to see what Thomas University had to offer.
Cox shared an indirect tie with Thomas athletic director Mike Lee in the form of Mike Leeder, Cox’s mentor at Georgia Southwestern and the man who hired Lee 16 years ago when he was the Thomas AD.
Leeder founded the Night Hawks’ men’s basketball program in 1995 and coached them until his departure in 1998.
When Leeder left, so did TU basketball.
Lee salvaged as much as he could, but coaching a baseball team and launching a college athletic program is no walk in the park.
Intricate measures – such as developing facilities, hiring a staff and mapping a five-year framework – had to be taken.
Once everything was in place, Lee started making phone calls. Cox among those who answered.
When Cox arrived for the interview, he walked into an office that bulged a smorgasboard of clutter and coaches.
“There were like three or four guys sharing the office and there were old boxes and things all over the place,” Cox said.
After some basketball banter, Lee took Cox to the now re-done West campus, which Thomas had just bought from the county at the time. Pigeon droppings, bushgrass and other unappealing land aspects still loomed.
“I told myself right then that there was no way I’m taking this job,” Cox said. “Absolutely no way.”
Then Lee showed Cox the blueprints – not just the revamped basketball gym, weight room and athletic offices, but also the diagram for which to build team character and success amid and away from the game.