Saying, "You always have to keep your options open," Gerry Gimelstob resigned yesterday as men's basketball coach at George Washington University. Gimelstob refused to be specific about his plans, but said he was considering other job opportunities.

Gimelstob, who had recently signed a multiyear contract, said he was leaving because he had accomplished his goals at GW. He said he still was interested in being a head coach. "I was very happy at GW but you always have to keep your options open," said Gimelstob, whose four-year record was 58-55. "I'll always be appreciative to the GW administration for giving me the opportunity to establish myself as a head coach. I'm proud of what we've done in my four years and I feel the program is in good shape for whoever comes in."

GW Athletic Director Steve Bilsky said there was no move to fire Gimelstob. "He released himself. I'm a little disappointed and surprised," Bilsky said. "But I understand what his reasons were. He's done a good job here and he should be free to seek other opportunities."

Gimelstob met with his assistant coaches and players yesterday afternoon to inform them of his decision.

"I was surprised he quit," said junior guard Mike O'Reilly.

"With the players returning and the way things went last year, maybe it was best," said junior forward Steve Frick. "Maybe a new coach is the only way things will get better. Coach had great intentions, but sometimes, he wasn't understood."

Gimelstob, an outspoken and hard-working perfectionist, incurred the wrath of his players when he suspended junior Troy Webster and freshman Joe Dooley following a loss to St. Joseph's at the Smith Center. Gimelstob also was involved in an physical altercation with Manny Rosenberg, the director of sports marketing.

The players and Gimelstob said they hoped his assistant, Mike Cohen, would be seriously considered for the job. "In terms of continuity and an easy transition, we would like to see Coach Cohen take over," O'Reilly said. "

Other possible candidates might include Tom Schneider, a former GW assistant and now head coach at Lehigh; Paul Evans of Navy, and Jimmy Lynam, who most recently was fired as head coach of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. Bilsky said he would establish a search committee by the end of the week.

Gimelstob took over a GW team off its worst record in 15 years (8-19). His first two years produced 13 and 14 wins, respectively.

This season, with a veteran club and a highly thought of group of freshmen, expectations were high. But injuries to senior center Mike Brown and freshman Max Blank and inconsistent play by his other veterans left the Colonials 14-14.

"Every season has its share of peaks and valleys and those incidents had nothing at all to do with my decision," Gimelstob said. "There were like a loss, you have to forget about them and carry on. I was happy with the way we started the season and the way we finished.

"I told the guys I want three things from them: first, to have a smooth transition to a new coach; second, to help out with recruiting for the school, and third, continue to have pride in GW's program and the school.

"Our kids have graduated and, basically, we've done a good job here."

Gimelstob, 34, served for two years as a graduate assistant to Bob Knight at Indiana, four years as an assistant to Jerry Pimm at Utah, then returned to work with Knight three more years before coming to GW.