Team preview: Florida International

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Not many coaches did a better job during 2004-05 than first-year Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie. But Gillispie's former assistant, Sergio Rouco, is one who could make a strong case after his debut at Florida International University.

After helping Gillispie turn UTEP around -- the Miners went 24-8 and gave Maryland fits in the 2004 NCAA Tournament after a 6-24 campaign -- Rouco went back home to Miami to orchestrate one of the more improbable seasons in the program's history.

Yes, FIU had a losing season (13-17). But 13 victories were as many as the Golden Panthers had won the previous two seasons. Two of their five wins in 2003-04 came against Division II teams and they went 1-13 in the Sun Belt Conference, having to work overtime for that lone league win.

Making matters worse, Rouco's first recruit, Alan Guyton, who was to be the point guard, was lost for the season with a knee injury during the summer. Suddenly, Rouco had a team that looked worse on paper than the one that had finished 312th in the RPI the year before to get Donnie Marsh fired.

"We would've gladly taken five wins at the start of the season," Rouco said. "I'd never been a head coach, we were playing walk-ons and dressing eight scholarship players. Really, I was just hoping we could go out and be competitive most nights and not get embarrassed."