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WIZARDS ARE COURTING BROWN

The Washington Wizards have approached Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown about becoming their president of basketball operations and head coach. Brown, however, has so far declined to entertain overtures because Doug Collins remains under contract as the team's coach, sources told the Washington Post.

Brown resigned as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

"Washington Sports and Entertainment and (chairman) Abe Pollin are not discussing the interviewing process or the candidates we are speaking to," team President Susan O'Malley said.

Brown, 62, canceled a meeting with the Wizards that was scheduled for this morning after making contact Wednesday with Pollin or O'Malley. Brown has not ruled out future conversations with the Wizards but he won't meet with them while Collins, a friend, is still employed by the team.

Whether Brown's stance forces the team to change its approach of hiring a president of basketball operations before making a decision on Collins is unknown. However, by seeking out Brown, arguably the most desirable coaching candidate available, the Wizards further fueled speculation that they intend to replace Collins, who is owed $10 million for the remaining two years of his contract.

Sources told the Post on Thursday night that Brown made attempts to contact Collins and longtime friend Michael Jordan, who was not rehired by the Wizards as president of basketball operations earlier this month following an acrimonious meeting with Pollin.

Brown has already interviewed with the Houston Rockets and also remains the favorite for the Los Angeles Clippers coaching job.

No Sixers for Van Gundy

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeff Van Gundy won't be coaching the Philadelphia 76ers.

Van Gundy, who has interviewed for the Cleveland Cavaliers' vacancy, spoke to Sixers General Manager Billy King on Wednesday.

"We mutually agreed it wasn't a good fit," Van Gundy said Thursday.

Van Gundy, who abruptly resigned last season as coach of the New York Knicks and remains under contract with the club until July 31, appears to be the leading candidate for the Cavs job. Former New Orleans coach Paul Silas also interviewed with Cleveland. Brown also is interested in the position.

Van Gundy is working as a TV analyst for TNT.

"I would say it's 50-50," as to whether he'll be coaching next season, Van Gundy said. The Sixers already have been denied permission to speak to Portland coach Maurice Cheeks, a former 76ers assistant for four seasons under Brown and member of Philadelphia's 1983 championship team.

Cheeks has been the Trail Blazers' coach for the last two years, accumulating a 99-65 record while overseeing a troubled team that had a spate of on- and off-court problems. Cheeks, who still has a home in Philadelphia, has one year left on his contract, along with a team option. He reportedly was upset at being denied the chance to talk to the Sixers.

"All I can tell you is that Mo is extremely upset about it," an NBA source told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday night. "Mo wasn't lying when he said that if it were anyplace else, it would've been a non-issue. He understands the business and that Portland did what it had to do.

"But . . . it's Philadelphia. Everyone knows he wants to be in Philadelphia. Plus, the Blazers didn't even extend his contract; they gave him no compensation whatsoever, and that's what has him mad."

The Inquirer also reported today that several NBA sources said King spent Thursday with Kentucky coach Tubby Smith trying to talk him into taking the job.

King wasn't successful.

"I have no interest in coaching the 76ers. I am very happy as the coach at Kentucky and extremely pleased with my new contract I signed last month," Smith said in a statement released by Kentucky's athletic department today. "I have no plans to leave the Wildcats, and in fact, I'm very excited about our prospects for next season."

Smith signed an eight-year, $20.25 million extension April 18.

U.S. roster complete

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Elton Brand, Richard Jefferson and Nick Collison completed the roster for the U.S. basketball team that will compete in this summer's Olympic qualifying tournament.

The U.S. team will try to secure one of three Olympic berths from its region for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Collison will be the only college player on the 12-man roster. Already on the team are Ray Allen,, Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Jermaine O'Neal, Mike Bibby and Karl Malone.

The United States finished sixth at last year's world championships in Indianapolis, forcing it to play in the qualifying event in Puerto Rico.

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