- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000

LOS ANGELES Haggling between the University of Miami and basketball coach Leonard Hamilton over a $1 million buyout in his contract could prevent the Washington Wizards from hiring him as coach.

Hamilton and the Wizards have agreed in principle on a contract that would guarantee him $2 million over the next four seasons and an option for a fifth. However, the university wants Hamilton or the Wizards to pay the buyout before they will release him from his contract, which extends for the next seven years.

"Nobody could have anticipated a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a person the stature of Michael Jordan," Nick Christin, Hamilton's attorney, said of the Wizards' president of basketball operations. "If Yale University called [Miami] President [Edward] Foote and offered him the job, I think he'd have the same reaction."

Jordan contacted Hamilton last week. Another Big East coach, St. John's Mike Jarvis, already has rejected Jordan in his first major coaching search since joining the Wizards in January.

Hamilton, Jordan and Miami athletic director Paul Dee were not available for comment Thursday. Dee said Wednesday he was examining the issue of whether or how much Hamilton would have to compensate the university if he wanted to get out of his contract.

Christin said there's a case to be made that Hamilton shouldn't have to pay at all. Christin said no compensation was paid when another of his clients, Jimmy Johnson, left Miami to coach the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

Christin suggested that Miami, which struggled in men's basketball before Hamilton arrived 10 years ago, should see an NBA promotion for its coach as a "validation of what the program has become."

Hamilton received the contract extension in April as a reward after the Hurricanes went 23-11 for their sixth straight winning season and earned their third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. Miami made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Hamilton's new contract is worth about $750,000 per year, but Christin said the coach hasn't received any money from it yet.

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