CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Cavaliers asked the New York Knicks for permission to talk to Jeff Van Gundy about being their next coach, a source said Monday.
Van Gundy, who abruptly resigned last season as coach of the Knicks and remains under contract with the club until July 31, is at the top of the Cavs' wish list, the NBA source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Van Gundy, who is working as a TV analyst for TNT, declined to comment on the report while in Boston for the Celtics game against the New Jersey Nets.
The Cavaliers finished 17-65 this season, tying Denver for the league's worst record. Cleveland fired John Lucas following a 8-34 start, and the club finished the season with assistant Keith Smart as interim coach.
Van Gundy compiled a 248-172 record and made six playoff appearances with the Knicks before resigning just 19 games into the 2001-02 season.
"I'm excited that Van Gundy is one of the candidates," said forward Carlos Boozer of Juneau, whose strong rookie season was one of the few positives for the Cavs. "I don't know him personally, but I know he's a good coach and he had the Knicks in the playoffs every year. He's a pretty good commentator, too."
Knicks spokesman Dan Schoenberg said the club's policy is not to comment on such matters.
Last week, Van Gundy told the New Orleans Hornets that he is not interested in their coaching position. The Hornets are looking for a replacement for Paul Silas, fired after the team lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Silas, who is expected to meet with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Smart are believed to be the other leading candidates for Cleveland's coaching vacancy.
General manager Jim Paxson said the Cavaliers will not name a new coach until after the May 22 draft lottery.
Paxson declined to comment on the team's interest in Van Gundy or Silas and would not disclose who the Cavaliers plan to interview.
Van Gundy was the only coaching candidate mentioned last week when Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund met with Cleveland media members.
Paxson said he and Gund have had discussions with potential candidates.
Last week, Gund underscored the importance of hiring the right coach for his young team.
"This decision is one of the most important since I acquired the team 20 years ago," he said.
Gund said Cleveland's next coach - the Cavs' fourth since 1999 - has his work cut out for him.
"They have to know how to teach and how to get into the heads of young people and help them grow," he said. "As much as anything, he has to be able to teach these young players to play as a team."
The 41-year-old Van Gundy would appear to be ideal for the Cavaliers, who were the league's youngest team this season.
Van Gundy is young enough to relate to younger players, but he's also a disciplinarian and unafraid to cut players' minutes if they are not performing well.
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