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Pitino Tells Lavin: Not Interested

Rick Pitino called UCLA basketball coach Steve Lavin on Wednesday to say that he's not interested in Lavin's job.

The call came a day after UCLA athletic director Peter Dalis said he has had two phone conversations with Pitino in the past month, which surprised Lavin.

Dalis said Tuesday that the conversations, made at the request of a mutual friend, were brief and "none of them had anything to do with the UCLA job in particular."

Pitino, who resigned this week as coach and president of the Boston Celtics , did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday.

UCLA spokesman Marc Dellins confirmed that Lavin and Pitino spoke Wednesday.

"Steve told me they talked for a while and he (Pitino) told him that he's not interested in the job," Dellins said.

A day earlier, Lavin called the Pitino news "disheartening and disappointing."

"Pitino is an opportunist," Lavin said. "He's trying to capitalize on a tremendous opportunity."

The news that Dalis and Pitino have talked came as a surprise to Lavin, who was informed of the conversations by reporters after practice Tuesday.

"This is all new knowledge. It's unfortunate," Lavin said. "Obviously, he's my boss, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt that there was some misunderstanding."

Dalis said he didn't tell Lavin because the conversations were not specifically about the UCLA basketball job. He said he has assured Lavin he is the Bruins' coach.

However, Dalis didn't seem to rule out the possibility of changing coaches.

"There are a lot of people that feel the program ought to be at a level that it isn't right now," he said.

"That will always happen at any institution, wherever it is. But you never know who your next head coach might be. You never know whether someone might leave, someone may be dismissed. So the more information you have, the better off you are," he said.

Lavin earns $578,000 a year on a contract that runs through the 2004-2005 season but rolls over for five years each April 30. If Lavin is fired, the school would have to pay him $765,000 or five years of his base salary of $153,000.

In assessing the basketball program, Dalis said only 50 percent of it had to do with wins and losses. He said the other half includes academics, behavior and leadership.

Dalis said he's been "very pleased" with the Bruins' last few games they've won three straight but he isn't happy with attendance, which has declined each of the last four seasons. UCLA is 7-4 and 2-0 in the Pac-10.

Bruins captain Earl Watson was upset about the coaching speculation.

"I'm gla it's my last year because I'm getting tired of all the controversy," he said. "If there was a coaching change and I was a freshman or a sophomore, I wouldn't be coming back."

Elsewhere, UNLV president Carol Harter refused to respond to speculation that the university was trying to recruit Pitino as its new basketball coach.

Harter issued a statement Wednesday saying it is "counterproductive for the university to partake in day-to-day speculation" about a new coach.

It was the first comment by Harter on reports that surfaced earlier this week that UNLV boosters had contacted Pitino about the job.

Pitino acknowledged to the Boston Globe that he had been contacted by UNLV, but did not specify how the contact was made.

©2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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