HOUSTON: Larry Brown met with representatives of the Rockets the day after resigning his job with Philly. The chance to work with Yao Ming and Steve Francis probably would appeal to him.

'Larry knows exactly what he wants, and he is going to take his time and decide which situation is best for him,' says Portland assistant Herb Brown, Larry's older brother. 'He wants a situation where he has a chance to win a championship, and a chance to do some teaching as well as coaching, because that's what he's about. And he wants a place where his family is comfortable.'

If Houston isn't right for Brown, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Dunleavy are likely candidates. Dunleavy, who has been out of coaching for two years, hit a home run during his interview with Rocket officials last week.

PHILADELPHIA: With Maurice Cheeks out of the picture, attention turns to Van Gundy, Philadelphia assistants Randy Ayers and Mike Woodson, ex-Georgetown coach John Thompson and Kentucky's Tubby Smith.

CLEVELAND: GM Jim Paxson targeted Van Gundy and Paul Silas from the start. Both have interviewed. Van Gundy likes the Cavaliers' young talent and the chance to work with upcoming No. 1 draft pick LeBron James, but he also is happy with his broadcasting work for the TNT network.

'I have had a great year working with Marv (Albert) and Mike (Fratello),' Van Gundy, 41, tells the Tribune. 'Although I know I'm a coach at heart, because of how much I enjoy what I'm doing, I am not desperate. If it's the right fit, I would love the opportunity to get back into coaching.'

NEW ORLEANS: Insiders say all three candidates considered to be finalists Fratello, Brian Hill and Tim Floyd have their proponents within the Hornet hierarchy. Van Gundy is solidly in the corner of Fratello, his broadcasting partner who has been out of coaching since 1999.

'I don't get that,' Van Gundy says of Fratello being passed over for several jobs, including Portland when Cheeks was hired. 'Mike is one of the most underrated coaches in the NBA. I don't understand why he is being overlooked.'

L.A. CLIPPERS: Brown has not burned a bridge with his former employer, penny-pinching owner Donald Sterling, so maybe he will rejoin the woebegone franchise. But Brown would want major say in personnel decisions, so where would that leave GM Elgin Baylor? Dunleavy also is on Sterling's list.

TORONTO: The Raptors, who don't have a lot to pay Lenny Wilkens' successor, are going a different route, looking at assistant coaches. Dwane Casey, associate head coach with Seattle, is on the short list along with Woodson and Detroit's Kevin O'Neill.

ATLANTA: Dunleavy is a neighbor and family friend of David McDavid, the Fort Worth, Texas, native who is buying the team. Interim coach Terry Stotts probably is gone.

DENVER: GM Kiki Vandeweghe played for Brown at UCLA. Brown coached the Nuggets from 1974-79. The low-profile Jeff Bzdelik, who did a good job with an undertalented Denver team last year, is expendable.

Ñ Kerry Eggers

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