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NEW YORK — Shortly after yesterday’s firing of Alvin Gentry, the NBA forwarded his address, home phone number and unlisted birth sign to Charles Oakley. According to someone incurably tapped into the Clippers’ front office, interim coach Dennis Johnson has no hope of permanently replacing Gentry on L.A.’s sideline.

Meaning as many as four teams — Clippers, Hawks, Raptors and Cavaliers — maybe twice that number should expectations be stunted — in Dallas, New Orleans, Washington and Milwaukee — will need new head coaches for next season.

Win, lose or bodily removed from the premises by Philadelphia 76ers chairman Ed Snider, Larry Brown’s name is certain to surface as a primary nominee in at least half of the above venues despite the incidental issue of his two-year obligation to the 76ers past this season.

In fact, ESPN.com has learned Brown already committed to coaching the Clippers and UCLA simultaneously in 2003-04.

As long as Brown is still well-connected in Philly, he plans to surround himself with as much experienced help as he can find; which his why Tyrone Hill was re-enrolled by the Sixers as soon as his $6.6 million guarantee (by the Cavaliers) cleared waivers Sunday night.

Can George Lynch, Jumaine Jones, and Rodney Buford be far behind?

Hill began the season by averaging almost a double-double (points and rebounds) for the first month of the season before losing his job to rookie Carlos Boozer and diving into disfavor with John Lucas; he had alienated Cavs GM Jim Paxson long ago with conduct and comments unbecoming a gentleman forward; how bad do you have to be to make the Cavs look worse?

Consequently, a deal was negotiated (Cleveland saved $200,000) to get Hill into free agent circulation before his playoff eligibility expired. Sources far removed from ESPN.com, disclose the Sixers beat out the Mavericks, Lakers, Nets and Pacers for the 208-cm veteran’s sullied services.

Not an easy accomplishment considering Philly could only offer $580,000, whereas Dallas brandished an enticing $3.8 million exception; I can’t say how high Mark Cuban was willing to bid, only that it dwarfed the Sixers’ proposition.

Clearly, Hill’s magnet wasn’t money. Instead, it was his fixed friendship with guard Eric Snow as well as the allure of mucho minutes for the remainder of this year and next; other than Keith Van Horn, the Sixers don’t have another forward over 200 cm under contract past this semester.

This just in: The Clippers deny firing Gentry; they say he’s simply recovering from having a kidney stone removed.

* * * * *

What a difference a fortnight can make and we’re not talking about Wimbledon. About two weeks ago, the Pistons were seemingly the beast of the East, rising above the conference and a legitimate threat to play into June. Then, after a loss at Minnesota and a home setback to the Hornets, they headed West.

Five losses later, they have extended their excruciating streak to seven games.

Portland’s Bonzi Wells, who was a 1998 first-round choice of Detroit — No. 11 overall — but never played for the team, poured iodized salt in the wound Sunday while piling up a career-high 37 points; he earned a technical for taunting the Pistons bench, the white segment, no doubt.

Earlier this season, Wells allegedly directed racial slurs at Dan Schayes and Troy Murphy without censure of any kind (publicly anyway) from the league office.

In any event, Gentry — the Pistons coach in 1998 — denies having anything to do with the trade.

Whistled for four offensive violations, including three within a 90-second span during the second quarter of Sunday’s game in Denver, Allen Iverson fouled out for the second time this season in 29 minutes.

Any team interested in undermining whatever constructive chemistry it might have going should quickly scoop up Cav reject Bimbo Coles . . . If the Rockets again don’t make the playoffs will Rudy Tomjanovich be held accountable, or will he get one more crack coaching Yao Ming? . . . Contrary to a Chicago Tribune report, Keon Clark did not sign with the Kings for $1 million, but for $4.5 million and $5 million, the second year being his option.

Can’t understand why Isiah Thomas is playing Ron Mercer less and less. In last season’s first-round loss to the Nets, the Pacers most potent backcourt tandem was Reggie Miller and Mercer.

It can’t get any more depressing than sitting behind Erick Strickland, no matter how many meaningless 3-pointers he drains. You can’t expect Mercer to recapture his shooting rhythm with inconsistent minutes.

If Anthony Mason experienced conniptions when he felt he didn’t get enough touches playing alongside Patrick Ewing, Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning and Glenn Robinson, what do you think he’s saying under his breath while Gary Payton and Sam Cassell dominate the ball in Milwaukee?

Ahem, on second thought, I suspect Nate McMillan will continue to coach the Sonics next season after all . . . Michael Jordan admitted he administered some vigilante justice on jabberin’ Jalen Rose, loosening his tooth with a deliberate elbow.

David Stern immediately warned Ron Artest he better not try any of that stuff.

Very burgundy blooded of Karl Malone, I submit, to call out Olympic Team fence sitters Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Garnett. One of seven players chosen for the qualifying tournament and beyond and, arguably, the NBA’s all-time busiest body, wondered out loud why anyone wouldn’t get out from behind his 18-wheeler and play for the red, righteous and blue.

Correct me if I’m right, but wasn’t Malone the first and last to (unsuccessfully) beg out of the last few All-Star teams he made?

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