Cox left that day at odds. If Thomas offered, he’d be hard pressed to turn down his first college head coaching gig. But the challenge wouldn’t just be gameplans and scouting reports. He’d be starting from scratch.
So Cox took some time to soul search and spent a weekend in Atlanta. He received a call from Lee while attending a Braves-Phillies game at Turner Field. The hard-nosed, mustached Lee wanted Cox to join the TU family.
Cox accepted the next day.
Just under a year and a half later – amid a slew of recruiting transfers and a proverbial team redshirt year to get the team up to speed – Cox was prowling the sidelines as his first game as a college head coach.
The Night Hawks won their season and home opener, 82-71, against Florida National, and Thomas went on to 7-3 through the first month of the season.
Then came the skid.
The Night Hawks dropped seven of their next eight, and sandwiched a sour Christmas break in between.
“We had some lows there along the way, and it certainly wasn’t easy,” Cox said. “There were times where I know I did a bad job in preparation.”
Thomas needed a statement win to resurge the season.
That came in a Feb. 4 thumping of then No. 6 Embry-Riddle at home.
The victory catapulted Thomas to a strong finish, where the Night Hawks won four of their final seven. Two of those losses were decided by less than two points, which Cox attributed to help the team.
“It was certainly tough, especially blowing a 20 point lead on senior night [against Northwood],” Cox said. “After the game, I just told the guys that we’ve still got a championship to play for.”
Not many penciled Thomas in to the Sun Conference Tournament when the season started, but can you blame them?