FIU's Thomas coaches vs. UNC

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Isiah Thomas coached Florida International in its opener Monday night against North Carolina (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP), hours after his 86-year-old mother had open-heart surgery.

Thomas spent Sunday in Chicago with his mother, Mary. He arrived in Chapel Hill early Monday, and told The Associated Press he expects to return to Chicago on Tuesday.

"It's tough right now," Thomas said by telephone before Florida International's 88-72 loss.

The Hall of Famer was at shootaround with the Golden Panthers on Monday, and spent the afternoon resting and preparing in the team hotel. He was hired by FIU in April.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.