Proving that Florida International University’s trustees aren’t intimidated by the slings and arrows of sports talk radio / the blogosphere, Isiah Thomas (above, right) has narrowly beat out Tim Hardaway for the position of the Golden Panters’ head coach, signing a 5-year pact. From the Miami Herald’s Pete Pelegrin :

”Coming back to the college game has always been a dream of mine,” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to go somewhere where we can build a basketball legacy together. A lot of people don’t know that FIU is one of the 25 largest universities in the country with a tremendously strong alumni community standing behind.”

Thomas last coached the New York Knicks during the 2007-08 season when he went 23-59 and was fired. Previously, Thomas coached the Indiana Pacers and led them to three consecutive playoff appearances.

Thomas compiled a 187-223 career record as an NBA coach.

Thomas inherits an FIU basketball program that last had a winning record in 1999-2000 at 16-14. The Panthers made one NCAA Tournament appearance in 1995 and lost in the first round to UCLA.

FIU’s home arena, U.S. Century Bank Arena, will also undergo a $5 million renovation with the help of the capital improvements trust fund.