For a season, he and Fisher were on the same side of the sport. During games, Thames studied how Fisher called plays, how he reacted to opponents' defensive schemes and how he interacted with players in-game and on the sideline. Then he put it into action. Thames coached himself the way Fisher coached players, saw film the way Fisher saw film and helped the team the way Fisher helped the team.
Fisher recognized the discipline in Thames' personality immediately. It was one of the reasons he accepted the transfer in the first place.
"No one I've coached has done more to improve his game in a redshirt season than X," Fisher said. "He worked hard when no one was watching. ... All those things that everyone talks about doing, he did."
Thames and Fisher both understand commitment and dedication. Both were raised by mothers who were teachers -- women who instilled a practice-what-you-preach mentality in their sons. And that went into Thames' practices during his redshirt year. The Aztecs might have gone 34-3 in 2010-11, reaching the Sweet 16, but Thames was already previewing the future on the practice courts in San Diego. A future that three seasons later would see the Aztecs back at the Sweet 16 with Fisher, the man who has been kept young by his players, and his extension, Thames, whose soul seems to get older with every practice, finally working together.
But now that extension has basically turned into a mirror. Ask them each a question about the team, a game plan or life and they will give strikingly similar responses. In news conferences, in private, it doesn't matter.
Because of how close they are, Fisher never has to filter himself around Thames.
"You can say what you feel in that moment with X," he said.
Heading into the Sweet 16, the two have never been more similar. After two career performances in the second and third rounds, they're hoping it only gets better. Ask either to reflect right now and it's no surprise the answers are the same.
"I'm hoping that best moment is yet to come," Fisher said.
"Hopefully," Thames said, "we can have the best memory coming up in these next few weeks."