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Rockets preparing for Van Gundy's arrival

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

HOUSTON The Houston Rockets will introduce their new coach Wednesday at their new arena. It won't be a surprise.

Jeff Van Gundy will join team owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Carroll Dawson at a news conference near the Rockets' new downtown home, which is under construction.

Van Gundy told Dawson on Monday he was ready to succeed Rudy Tomjanovich as the Rockets' coach, pending his agent completing contract negotiations.

''My reaction is very excited,'' Dawson said. ''We had a lot of competition for this guy. Everybody who had an opening was trying to get him, so we feel very fortunate.

''I'm going to start signing whoever he wants as assistants, then we've got to get ready for the draft. We don't have a first-round pick, but we have people coming in to work out.''

Among the names mentioned for an assistant coaching position is former Knicks star Patrick Ewing, now an assistant with the Washington Wizards. Van Gundy coached Ewing with the Knicks.

''He's (Van Gundy) mentioned that, but I think there's a lot of competition for Patrick,'' Dawson said. ''Patrick might be in the same position that Jeff was under because he's under contract. I don't know if we can talk to him.

''That's going to be up to the coach.''

The Rockets have agreed to give the Knicks a second-round draft pick as compensation for Van Gundy, who is under contract through July 31.

Former Rockets and current Knicks forward Othella Harrington suggested the Rockets get ready for a disciplined coach who gives extreme attention to detail.

''He's a guy who's going to work constantly to improve the team and the organization,'' Harrington said. ''He's a very intense guy. There are no questions about his ability to coach and to win and there's no question about him wanting to win.

''It's going to be him coming in and instilling that on the other guys.''

The Rockets have an idea what to expect.

''I'm happy that we finally got a coach and we're not in limbo any more,'' guard Moochie Norris said. ''We hated to lose Coach but now we know what to expect and what the system will be.''

Tomjanovich stepped down last month after 12 years as coach. He won two NBA championships, one against the Knicks in 1994 when Van Gundy was an assistant under Pat Riley.

Gundy's reputation as a disciplinarian is well known.

''What do I expect? Defense, defense, defense and a lot of hard work,'' Norris said. ''I know about Coach Van Gundy from playing against his teams. The games are going to be 80-85 points, and you work for every basket you get. It's going to be very physical.''

Houston free agent James Posey must wait to see what direction the franchise will go.

''They will come in here and plan who they want to be a part of this,'' Posey said. ''They might decide to make some changes. Right now, I can't really think about that.

''I like being here but it's a business and business moves will be made and that's how you have to look at it.''

Van Gundy replaced Don Nelson as Knicks coach in the 1995-96 season and went 248-172. He led New York to the 1999 NBA Finals, losing to San Antonio.



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