May 3, 2003 -- They were known as Jeff Van Gundy guys and now are free to join the former Knicks coach if he lands in Toronto or anywhere else.
Knick assistant coaches Tom Thibodeau and Steve Clifford and advance scout Andy Greer have been let go, as their expiring contracts will not be renewed. As reported here last month, Herb Williams, coach Don Chaney's lone hire, will be retained.
The departures - not unexpected - set the stage for Chaney to bring in someone of the stature of Celtic Hall-of-Famer Dave Cowens, who campaigned for the job in The Post in March. The Knicks also might fill one of the positions by promoting Mike Malone (Indiana assistant Brendan Malone's son), who is now their coaching associate.
The elder Malone, who worked under Chaney in Detroit and is a former Knick assistant, is another name that could come up if the Pacers have a shakeup. With a league-wide coaching flux, Chaney has a lot of interesting names to consider - even current interims Dennis Johnson (Clippers) and Terry Stotts (Atlanta). Lon Kruger, Gar Heard, Sidney Lowe and Alvin Gentry are also looking for work. Problem is, those guys and Cowens could be in line for other head-coaching vacancies, which is why the Knicks have not set a timetable to fill the positions.
Thibodeau, who was also their summer-league coach, Clifford and Greer turned down contract extensions in November and evidently Chaney felt betrayed.
Thibodeau, Clifford and Greer met with Chaney and GM Scott Layden yesterday. "They're quality coaches and professionals," Chaney said. "But at this time we feel it's appropriate to go in another direction."
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