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National sports briefs: Thomas takes coaching job at Florida International

Associated Press
MIAMI ó Isiah Thomas is back in coaching, and Florida International wound up as his surprising destination.
The former New York Knicks president and coach was hired to take over FIU’s program Tuesday, a move that gives the Hall of Fame player a chance to revive his career.
“We are very excited to have such a legendary athlete and proven winner in Isiah Thomas to lead our men’s basketball program,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. “There is no doubt that Isiah will give FIU a tremendous opportunity to take the basketball program to the highest level.”
Thomas and FIU agreed on a five-year contract.
“I think we can get good players from across Florida and around the country to buy into our plan to make this a top-tier basketball program,” Thomas said in a statement released by the school. “I’m committed to growing something here and strongly believe that, over time, we’ll put a team on the floor that everyone at FIU can be proud of.”
* HARTFORD, Conn. ó Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet has decided to give up his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA draft.
“I have had a great experience at Connecticut and cannot thank my coaches and teammates enough,” Thabeet said in a statement released by the school. “I look forward to the challenge of playing professionally and know that my time here at UConn has prepared me to be successful in the future.”
* CHICAGO ó Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says Jonny Flynn might not be headed to the NBA along with Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris.
Boeheim said Flynn’s status is “kind of up in the air.” Last week the school announced that all three players planned to make themselves eligible for the draft.
The coach said Devendorf and Harris are virtual locks to leave.
* CHICAGO ó DePaul’s Dar Tucker, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who averaged 18.5 points and five rebounds this past season, plans to enter the draft and hire an agent.n CINCINNATI ó Top assistant Chris Mack will succeed Sean Miller as Xavier’s coach, a university spokesman said.
Mack has no head coaching experience but close ties to the program. He played for Xavier and was a two-time captain before graduating in 1992. He was director of basketball operations at the school from 1999-2001 and spent three seasons as an assistant to Skip Prosser at Wake Forest before returning to Xavier as an assistant coach in 2004.
* COLUMBIA, Mo. ó Mike Anderson has signed a seven-year deal to remain Missouri’s coach.
NBA
PHILADELPHIA ó Paul Pierce hit the winning jumper, scored 31 points and hindered Philadelphia’s shot at the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed in Boston’s 100-98 win.
* ATLANTA ó Flip Murray scored 17 points to lead Atlanta’s reserves past Miami’s 81-79 in a playoff preview that was more like a preseason game.
Michael Beasley led the Heat with 23 points in only 24 minutes.
* NEW YORK ó The NBA has suspended Boston guard Ray Allen one game without pay for elbowing Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao in the groin.
* WASHINGTON ó Flip Saunders has agreed to become the new coach of the Wizards, with an announcement expected next week, according to an NBA executive.
* SACRAMENTO, Calif. ó Spencer Hawes will miss Sacramento’s season finale after straining his troublesome left knee.
* The jumbled mess in the Western Conference standings is creating some headaches.
Travel plans are on hold, and forget about getting a jump on scouting a first-round opponent.
“Nearly impossible,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said.
With two days left in the regular season, the Trail Blazers can still finish third, fourth or fifth in the West. They’re likely to open the playoffs against either Houston or San Antonio, but they won’t know until tonight whether that would be in Texas or Oregon.
Or, they could host Dallas, New Orleans or Utah.
The Blazers, who were having scouts break down tape of every West playoff team but the Lakers, aren’t the only ones inconvenienced.
“I can’t figure out my playoff travel schedule yet because the 2 to 8 seeds are still being determined in the West,” NBA commissioner David Stern said.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
COLUMBIA, Mo. ó Missouri officials failed to follow policies for medical emergencies when freshman linebacker Aaron O’Neal collapsed and later died during a 2005 summer workout, according to legal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The university agreed in March to pay $2 million to O’Neal’s parents to settle a lawsuit. But the sworn testimony of several key university employees who supervised the workout show a series of missteps.
Athletic department employees also showed an unfamiliarity with potential exercise-induced complications caused by sickle cell trait despite NCAA, school and professional association requirements. O’Neal carried the inherited blood disorder that affects an estimated 8 percent to 10 percent of African-Americans.
The school’s strength and conditioning director, who supervised the workout, testified he lacked the necessary professional certification to be hired. And the athletic department’s sports medicine director rejected requests from concerned colleagues and players to examine the 19-year-old reserve linebacker even after he exhibited signs of medical distress, legal documents show.
* COLUMBIA, S.C. ó South Carolina officials say receiver Dion LeCorn broke his leg during the Gamecocks’ spring game but should be ready to take the field in time for this year’s season.
NHL
NEW YORK ó The New York Islanders won the draft lottery, giving them the right to take one of two highly touted prospects ó forward John Tavares and Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.
Following the Islanders will be Tampa (No. 2), Colorado (No. 3), Atlanta (No. 4) and Los Angeles (No. 5).
NASCAR
CHARLOTTE ó Jim France, son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., will step down June 1 as head of the largest operator of NASCAR tracks.
Lesa France Kennedy, granddaughter of NASCAR’s founder and older sister to current NASCAR chairman Brian France, will move from president to chief executive officer of International Speedway Corp. The announcement was made at Tuesday’s annual stockholders’ meeting in Daytona Beach, Fla.
ISC is the largest operator of NASCAR tracks and the France family’s publicly traded company. The family runs NASCAR as a private entity.
BOXING
LOS ANGELES ó Oscar De La Hoya decided after much internal turmoil to retire and end a career in which he won 10 world titles in six divisions and became boxing’s most popular fighter.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s over,” the East Los Angeles native said before hundreds of fans, including comedian George Lopez and Oscar-nominated actor and former fighter Mickey Rourke. “It’s over inside the ring for me.”
De La Hoya retired four months after he was thoroughly beaten by Manny Pacquiao, his fourth loss in his last seven fights. He has not defeated a formidable opponent since Fernando Vargas in 2002.
GOLF
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ó Masters winner Angel Cabrera showed off the newest addition to his wardrobe for the admiring hometown crowd that welcomed him back to Argentina.
“Green suits me,” Cabrera said, smiling and sporting the Masters jacket he earned as the first champion from South America.
TENNIS
CHARLESTON, S.C. ó Julius Erving watched his daughter Alexandra Stevenson play tennis for the first time in a first-round loss at the Family Circle Cup.
Erving watched from the porch of the players’ clubhouse as Stevenson lost on clay to Akul Amanmuradova 6-2, 6-4.
Asked if it was the first time the basketball great had seen her play, Stevenson said, “Yes, that is true. And I actually didn’t seem him until the second set.”
It’s been a decade since Stevenson learned that Dr. J was her father, about the time she made the Wimbledon semifinals.
“We were never in a bad place, I just didn’t know him,” Stevenson said. “So it’s good now. I mean, obviously, it’s still odd because you’re getting to know somebody. But it’s nice that I know him, and he’s supporting me out here, coming to watch me play.”
Erving did not speak to reporters as he left the clubhouse.
* MONACO ó Roger Federer, who is playing this week at the Monte Carlo Masters, spoke about his marriage to longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec for the first time.
“A few tears here and there,” Federer said about Saturday’s wedding in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland. “It was nice.”
BASEBALL CARDS
NEW YORK ó Topps says it caught a competitor stealing and wants the rival product thrown out.
The Topps Co. Inc. made the accusation against The Upper Deck Co. Inc. in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Topps said baseball cards published this year by Upper Deck and some cards about to be published should be tossed because they imitate the layout and design of cards it printed in the 1970s.

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