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Isiah will donate first-year salary to FIU

MIAMI - The Knicks never won a playoff game in Isiah Thomas' tenure as president or coach, and some of his personnel moves were disastrous.

"My regret is that I wasn't able to deliver what the people in New York wanted, and they want a championship," Thomas said. "A lot of us have tried . . . I couldn't get it done."

Florida International has "no doubt," athletic director Pete Garcia said, that Thomas can get it done now.

Thomas sat in his new gym for an hour yesterday, at one point turning his gaze toward the FIU players he'll now coach.

"There'll be a lot of ups," Thomas said, almost in a cautionary tone. "There'll be a lot of downs."

He's experienced plenty of both, of course.

Without the ups, FIU wouldn't have wanted Thomas. Without the downs, Thomas wouldn't have needed FIU.

And so begins a surprising basketball marriage that got under way when Thomas was introduced as FIU's new coach, three days shy of the one-year anniversary of his firing as coach of the Knicks. Thomas will not accept a salary in his first season, instead donating that money back to FIU, and will earn somewhere around $275,000 in the final four years of his deal.

That doesn't count the $12 million or so the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - will continue paying him over the next two years.

"I did not come here for the money," Thomas said.

Instead, he'll have a chance to rebuild his tarnished Hall of Fame image.

Thomas wants to move past the problems that marred his tenure with the Knicks, such as being the central figure in a sexual harassment lawsuit and, according to authorities, being found unconscious in his New York-area home last fall after someone at the residence called 911 to report someone overdosed on sleeping pills.

He was asked more than once about those events, never offering specific details on either.

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