John MacLeod, coach of the Suns for 13 1/2 seasons in the 1970s and '80s, returned to the team yesterday as the top assistant to new coach Scott Skiles.

"I don't have the desire to embark on a long-term assistant coaching career, but this is a special situation," said MacLeod, 62, who was fired as coach at Notre Dame last spring but says he wants another NBA head coaching job.

MacLeod coached the Suns from 1973 until midway through the 1986-87 season, compiling a 579-543 record. He later coached the Mavericks and Knicks and his 707 coaching victories rank 10th on the NBA all-time list.

Skiles said MacLeod was the first candidate he thought of after replacing Danny Ainge, who resigned on Monday.

"He's somebody I've always admired from afar and it made perfect sense to me," Skiles said.

* BILLUPS OUT: Nuggets G Chauncey Billups will be out for at least three weeks and possibly the rest of the season after dislocating his left shoulder against the Kings on Thursday. Rookie G Chris Herren was activated off the injured list to replace Billups, who was averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 assists.