Pittsburgh assistant Jamie Dixon will succeed Ben Howland as the Panthers' basketball coach, the school announced yesterday.

Dixon, 37, never has been a head coach and he initially was passed over when the school tried to hire Skip Prosser of Wake Forest.

"I wanted to keep working for this job because I felt I was the best coach for this program," said Dixon, who was Pitt's associate head coach under Howland. "People kept asking me how I was doing, but I never got uptight. The players kept encouraging me. I never had a doubt this would happen."

Howland left Pitt to become UCLA's coach less than a week after the Panthers' NCAA tournament loss to Marquette on March 27. Pitt then targeted Prosser, but he turned down the job Friday after nearly accepting it several days earlier. . . .

Former Western Kentucky player Darrin Horn was hired as basketball coach of the Hilltoppers.

Horn, 30, was an assistant under Marquette Coach Tom Crean for four seasons. He replaces Dennis Felton, who recently become Georgia's coach. . . .

Diana Taurasi had ankle surgery a week after leading Connecticut to a second straight NCAA women's basketball title. Her recovery is expected to take two months.

Taurasi, the national player of the year, had arthroscopic surgery Monday on her right ankle, team officials said. . . .

Virginia sophomore guard Jermaine Harper, whose playing time and production decreased last season, will transfer to another school, Coach Pete Gillen said.

Harper asked for and will receive his immediate release, Gillen said. He plans to remain at Virginia through the end of the spring semester.

Harper missed five games and a month of practices last season following his arrest for driving under the influence.


Ex-Eagles Owner Dies

Leonard Tose, a former Philadelphia Eagles owner who gambled away his fortune, died at 88.

Tose died in his sleep in the hospice wing of St. Agnes Medical Center in Philadelphia, former Eagles general manager Jim Murray said.

Tose, who made his fortune in the trucking business, once estimated he lost as much as $50 million gambling. He spent his last years living in a downtown hotel room.

He bought the Eagles in 1969 for $16.15 million, then a record for a professional sports franchise. In 1976, Tose lured Dick Vermeil from UCLA to coach the Eagles, a team with only one winning season from 1962 to 1975. Vermeil's 1980 team went to the Super Bowl but lost to the Oakland Raiders.

Gambling debts forced Tose to sell the team to Norman Braman in 1985. . . .

Robert Helmick, a former U.S. Olympic Committee president (1985-91) who resigned amid conflict of interest allegations, died at 66 in Des Moines.


Invitation Only

D.C. United has invited midfielder Alen Kozic, 26, to practice with the club this week.

Kozic, who starred at Florida International University, played for the Miami Fusion in 1998 and 1999 before pursuing a career in Germany. . . .

United defeated George Mason University, 3-0, in a scrimmage. . . .

United for D.C., the club's charitable arm, raised about $20,000 at its First XI Charity Kickoff Luncheon last week, event director Catherine Marquette said.


Chaney Gets Extension

New York Knicks Coach Don Chaney agreed to a two-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2005-06 season. . . .

Golden State Warriors forward Troy Murphy and Los Angeles Clippers center Sean Rooks were suspended one game each for fighting. . . .

Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis was suspended for the final game of the season for his behavior after getting ejected from Monday night's game in Dallas. . . .

The Detroit Pistons expect NBA rebounding leader Ben Wallace to play Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. The team's medical staff estimated Wallace would be out for two weeks when he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on April 6.