(Isiah Thomas) will try to do at FIU what he failed to do as president and later coach of the Knicks: win.
"My one regret about New York was they never got to see me at my best, because there was so much other stuff going on," he says.
While he was with the Knicks in September 2007, a federal jury determined that he sexually harassed former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders, though Thomas was not held liable for any of the $11.6 million in punitive damages awarded her. Madison Square Garden, which owns the Knicks, was held financially responsible for creating a hostile work environment and firing her unfairly. Thomas still vehemently denies wrongdoing.
The case took its toll. Thomas went on to coach the Knicks as they tied a franchise record with 59 losses, his last of two seasons as coach before being reassigned as a consultant.
In October 2008, he was hospitalized for several hours after accidentally overdosing on sleeping pills. Thomas says a year of sleepless nights over the lawsuit combined with the Knicks' struggles led him to turn to sleep medicine. When one pill didn't suffice, he took more. He doesn't say how many.
His mentors, Thomas says, encouraged him to take the plunge into the college game. The advisers included former Pistons coach Chuck Daly, who died from cancer about a month after Thomas took the FIU job in April.
He also turned to St. Joseph High School coach Gene Pingatore, whose team has a distinguished record in the Chicago suburb of Westchester, where Thomas once commuted 90 minutes each way by bus to escape his crime-ridden neighborhood on Chicago's West Side.