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DUKE COACH TURNS DOWN CELTIC JOB

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has declined an offer to coach the Boston Celtics because he was worried about a rift between two top officials of the NBA team, a newspaper reports.

The power struggle between Boston president Red Auerbach and Dave Gavitt, the team's new director of basketball operations, played a significant role in Krzyzewski's decision, a source close to the Celtics told The News and Observer of Raleigh.Gavitt, hired by the Celtics less than two weeks ago, wanted Krzyzewski for the job. But Auerbach, the most successful coach in NBA history, vigorously opposed plans to hire a coach with no professional playing or coaching experience.

Krzyzewski, Duke's coach for the past 10 years, informed the Celtics and Duke athletic director Tom Butters of his decision before noon Thursday.

Krzyzewski met for most of Wednesday with Auerbach in Washington and left the talks convinced that he could not accept a job offer from Gavitt.

Auerbach balked at Gavitt's desire to hire Krzyzewski, and most of the Celtics players, particularly those who have been with the franchise for more than a decade, favor the hiring of assistant Chris Ford as Boston's new coach.

With Krzyzewski out of the picture, Ford becomes the leading candidate for the job.

Neither Gavitt, 52, nor Krzyzewski, 43, has NBA experience. Auerbach, 72, coached the Celtics to nine NBA titles before moving to the front office in 1966.

The rift between Gavitt and Auerbach developed before Gavitt's attempt to hire Krzyzewski. In contract negotiations with the Celtics, Gavitt, a successful coach at Providence who most recently has been the commissioner of the Big East Conference, was told that he would be given Auerbach's title of president of the franchise, the source told the News and Observer.

But near the end of contract talks, Gavitt was informed that Auerbach had asked to keep his title and office and that he would want only courtesy consultations in the hiring of a new coach. The title of director of basketball operations then was created for Gavitt, who approved the change.

When Auerbach learned that Gavitt planned to hire a coach with no NBA experience, he interceded and forced a showdown, the NBA source said.