Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Former Indiana preps coach arrested for drugs

The Associated Press

        GARY, Ind. — A former high school basketball coach and athletic director faces charges of dealing drugs out of a senior-citizen high-rise.

        Louis Thomas, the coach at Gary Mann from 1971-88, and a man he said is his nephew were arrested over the weekend after months of undercover surveillance by housing officers, the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana reported Tuesday.

        Thomas, 59, remained in the city jail Monday.

        Authorities found marijuana and cocaine packaged for sale and a stolen handgun in Thomas' apartment, police said.

        He was one of several residents under 65 allowed to live in the apartments run by the Gary Housing Authority because of a shortage of senior citizens applying to live there.

        The arrests followed numerous complaints by his neighbors. Anonymous tip cards delivered to Cpl. Joseph Tidwell identified the building's suspected drug dealer as ”coach” and said he used lookouts in the building to assure his deals weren't interrupted by police.

        Police went to Thomas' apartment around 2:15 a.m. Saturday, and they said he invited them inside, where they immediately saw drugs and drug paraphernalia on the living room table. Housing officers Mike Miller and Derrick Hill reported seeing a handgun on the table, along with a sandwich bag containing marijuana, more bags and a weight scale.

        Police said he told them the .45-caliber handgun was stolen and the marijuana was his.

        When Ricky Biggs, 26, of Gary came out of a bathroom, housing officers checked the room and found 15 sandwich bags and one white dinner plate filled with cocaine on the floor of the shower. Biggs was charged with visiting a common nuisance and was released on bond Saturday.

        Thomas had a record of 184-181 with 10 winning seasons as the Mann coach. His best season was 1975-76, when the Horsemen were 21-3 and ranked No. 10 in the state. The next year, Mann went 18-4 with a sectional tourney championship.

        Thomas, a Gary Roosevelt graduate, also was football coach at Mann briefly and was a member of the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association board of directors. He coached basketball at Pulaski Middle School before he was became the coach at Mann.


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