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Rockets entertain Van Gundy

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HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets made their pitch to Jeff Van Gundy on Thursday, but after a daylong visit he left no indication about whether he'll become the team's next coach.

Van Gundy put on a white hard hat with a Rockets logo on it and carried a red and white Rockets umbrella to walk through the mud in a driving rainstorm to inspect the team's new arena that is under construction.

"It rains hard, I'll tell you that," Van Gundy said, avoiding specifics about the possibility of replacing Rudy Tomjanovich, who stepped down last month.

"I've never felt comfortable talking about business," Van Gundy said. "I'm a coach."

Van Gundy resigned abruptly as the New York Knicks' coach last season and worked this season as a game analyst for TNT.

Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson also didn't say much about the team's coaching vacancy. Asked whether he has made an offer to Van Gundy, Dawson said: "We will if it works out."

Neither would confirm a report Thursday by Houston television station KRIV, which cited unidentified league sources as saying Van Gundy was negotiating a four- or five-year deal to coach the Rockets.

"It's a great job," Van Gundy said. "There are a lot of people who want it. It's obviously a great sports town — a new arena, good, young talent."

Van Gundy and former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy have emerged as the two finalists. The Rockets also met with Paul Silas and Larry Brown. On Monday, Silas was introduced as the Cleveland Cavaliers' coach, while Brown became the Detroit Pistons' coach.

Dawson on Wednesday told the Houston Chronicle from Chicago, where the NBA was holding its pre-draft camp, that the team had made its mind up.

"But it takes two to tango," Dawson said. "Just us wanting him won't get the job done."

Van Gundy said Thursday that he has interviewed with a couple of other teams. He would name only the Washington Wizards. "You just wait and see how everything works out," he said.

Van Gundy said he spoke briefly with Tomjanovich, who guided the Rockets to two NBA titles in the 1990s. Van Gundy described him as an icon and one of the game's great coaches.

"You've got big shoes to fill," he said. "You just try to build on what they accomplished here."

But he said he told Tomjanovich that if he took the job, the former coach always would be welcome. "I'd rely on him a lot," he said. "You'd be foolish not to tap into that expertise."

As for the Rockets as a team, Van Gundy said that Yao Ming and Steve Francis formed a strong foundation that made the job attractive.

"I was talking to somebody I really trust in basketball," Van Gundy said. "He said the biggest plus about Houston is every day Yao Ming wakes up, he's 7-5.

"Ain't that the truth."