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Knicks hire Utah's Layden as president

Scott Layden, who helped build the Utah Jazz into one of the NBA's dominant teams of the '90s, will try to turn the Knicks into champions.

Layden, 41, announced Tuesday he is leaving his post as vice president of basketball operations with the Jazz to become the Knicks' president/general manager. He is believed to have accepted a deal worth $6-million over four seasons.

Dave Checketts, who met with Layden over the weekend in Utah, will introduce the club's new president/GM at a press conference today at Madison Square Garden.

"It comes as a really tough decision to move on, but it just feels like the right thing to do," Layden said Tuesday from Salt Lake City. "I need to move on and grow up a little bit.

"I've really felt like I've been on the coattails of some brilliant people _ coaches, players, owners and the people who work in this organization."

Layden's father, Frank, is president of the Jazz.

"This one, Scott, is one truly cut of special cloth," Jazz owner Larry Miller said, crying. "He's had a very special role in the history of the franchise. He goes forward honorably. He did all of this right in terms of his approach."

At the same press conference, the Knicks are expected to finally announce Jeff Van Gundy's contract extension. As reported three weeks ago, Van Gundy, who avoided being fired last season en route to taking the Knicks to the NBA Finals, was rewarded with a two-year extension that will take him through the 2003 season.

Layden replaces Ernie Grunfeld, who was fired in April and had been at odds with Van Gundy over personnel decisions. Checketts said a main reason he removed Grunfeld was because the team president and the head coach were not getting along.

Layden, who spent 18 seasons in the Jazz organization, and Van Gundy have never worked together but have spoken on several occasions. There have several ties, namely long-time Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa, who was Van Gundy's boss in the late '80s when Chiesa was the coach at Providence.

Austin questions role

With starters Horace Grant, Nick Anderson and Penny Hardaway traded, C Ike Austin is preparing himself for a possible trade.

"I came here for a reason, to play with a particular team, but that group isn't here anymore," said Austin, who was persuaded by Hardaway to sign with Orlando before last season. "How are we supposed to make a run at another divisional title? I'm not sure what the plan is. We've gone from one extreme to another."

After being eliminated by the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, management said the team overachieved and started rebuilding with youth.

Austin, 30, recently discussed his future and trade scenarios with GM John Gabriel.

Gabriel said he expects Austin to be one of the team's leading scorers but added, "We're not finished yet. We're still looking at other ways to continue what we started. There is more that needs to be done."

BULLS: Bill Berry, an assistant with the Rockets during their two league championships, was hired for the same position.

BUCKS: Milwaukee, a big loser in the free agent derby last week, announced it will not renew the contract of GM Bob Weinhauer. It was due to expire Aug. 20. He was named the team's general manager two years ago, and he has presided over a tremendous overhaul in the team's roster and coaching staff. Under first-year coach George Karl, the Bucks returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 1991 and appeared to be improving.

CAVALIERS: Rookie PG Andre Miller signed for $5.4-million over three seasons, with the team holding an option season at $2.1-million. Rookie SG Trajan Langdon signed for $4.5-million over three seasons, with the team holding an option season at at $2.1-million.

CLIPPERS: The team renounced its rights to C Stojko Vrankovic.

HAWKS: F Chris Crawford, who played sparingly last season until LaPhonso Ellis was injured, signed a seven-year, $19-million contract. He averaged 9.8 points in six playoff games, despite separating his right shoulder in the second game.

RAPTORS: The team re-signed C Michael Stewart to a six-year, $24-million contract, leaving $6-million in salary cap room to offer to Charles Oakley, who is asking for $8-million. In his second season, Stewart averaged 9.4 minutes and 1.5 points.

WNBA

PORTLAND: Linda Hargrove was named coach. The team begins play next season. She coached the defunct American Basketball League's Colorado Xplosion.

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