Life of Riley next chapter for Knicks?


NEW YORK -- Pat Riley, the wet-between-the-ears legend who will be expected to produce slick miracles, could be named New York Knicks coach as early as today by team president Dave Checketts.

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.

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