Wilkens Resigns; Clipper Job Next? : Pro basketball: Coach bows out after seven years in Cleveland and says he expects to coach again.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lenny Wilkens resigned as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, clearing the way for the Clippers to pursue one of their leading candidates to replace Larry Brown.

Indiana and Atlanta both reportedly also have interest in Wilkens for their vacancies. But the Cavaliers had been denying teams permission to speak with the NBA's second-winningest coach, even after they had been eliminated from the playoffs last week.

"I thought about it all weekend and I just thought it was best that I resign," Wilkens told the Akron Beacon Journal. "I expect to coach again. I don't know where or when, but I want to keep coaching."

Monday's announcement should open all lines of discussion with Wilkens, but the coaching picture still remains cloudy as the Clippers continue to deny the Pacers permission to interview Brown.

Why?

Because, despite resigning last Thursday, he is not an ex-Clipper yet.

"The coach still has a contract," said Andy Roeser, the Clippers' executive vice president for business operations. "There are remaining issues to be resolved."

Adding to an already confusing situation, Roeser refused to shed light on the issues, saying only the Clippers hope to have the matter resolved within a few days.

Wilkens, whose 869 victories trail only Red Auerbach's 938, ranks high among the Clippers' candidates, who include Del Harris. The resignation ends a seven-year association with the Cavaliers, the longest active run for any coach with the same team, with five trips to the playoffs. Four of those were ended by the Chicago Bulls, including a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Cleveland General Manager Wayne Embry said the search for a new coach would begin immediately.

"We will look for a coach that has had head-coaching experience, a coach that has the ability to lead," Embry said. "I think that we still have a good basketball team here. i think that the person we hire will have very good players to work with."

Harris declined to comment when asked if he has interest in the Clippers' job, but offered one hint:

"I think it's fair to say coaches are always interested in coaching again."

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