Baltimore Stars Coach Jim Mora, who has won 52 games and two U.S. Football League championships in three seasons with the franchise, has been chosen head coach of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, it was reported yesterday.

The Times-Picayune/The States-Item reported that Mora, 49, would be named head coach this week and would bring his entire coaching staff with him. Saints General Manager Jim Finks refused to confirm the report. He said he planned to meet with Tom Benson, the team's managing general partner, this weekend and hoped to made an announcement early this week.

Finks confirmed that Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, who earlier was reported to be a leading candidate, was no longer being considered for the job. He also said Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jimmy Raye had been eliminated.

"I told Richie just today that we were going in another direction," Finks said. "There is no doubt in my mind that he is a qualified NFL coach. He probably one day will be a head coach."

Finks said he has spoken to Mora, whose contract with the Stars expired Jan. 17, and considered him a top contender for the job. Mora has been courted by St. Louis and Philadelphia, Finks said, but so far has signed no contracts . . .

The deadline of 6 p.m. last Friday that he had set for the sale and merger of the USFL Houston Gamblers with the New Jersey Generals has come and gone without the deal being closed, says Gamblers co-owner Jay Roulier. Now, he said, they are looking for a new buyer and might return to Houston.

The Gamblers, feeling the pinch of poor attendance, announced last summer an agreement to sell the team to Generals owner Donald Trump and New York real estate developer Steven Ross.

Under the proposed deal, the Gamblers and Generals would merge into one team, with 11 Generals players and 24 Gamblers players, including quarterback Jim Kelly, to be kept under contract on the offseason roster. Gamblers Coach Jack Pardee was to be coach of the merged team.

USFL spokesman Bob Rose disputed Roulier's statements. "We have every anticipation that the deal will be finalized next week," he said.