Sounding even more upbeat than normal, Checketts said yesterday that all but the finishing touches had been put on a five-year deal that would make the former Lakers coach by far the highest-paid coach in professional sports.
"I don't believe a deal is a deal until it's done, but I'm optimistic," Checketts said. "We're trying to drive it toward a conclusion. I feel good about it, and I'd like to believe that we'll get to that point . . . maybe [today]."
The contract certainly is a blockbuster in coaching circles, although Checketts disputed figures reported yesterday in the New York Daily News. A source close to the negotiations said Riley would earn well in excess of $1.5 million per year in salary and perks, including a lucrative housing allowance.
A Knicks source contended, however, that the total package comes in at "something less than $1.5 million" per year. That still would surpass the $1.2 million pulled down annually by Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, the highest-paid coach in professional sports.