In one season, he's gone from being a starter to a player who waits at the end of the bench and works only a few minutes a game.

Then again, Marc Iavaroni was hardly your average NBA starter for the Jazz, who face the SuperSonics tonight in the Seattle Center Coliseum.Because he played only 15 minutes a game while starting those 70 games last season, Iavaroni's reduced role this year is not all that mysterious. Besides giving sixth man Thurl Bailey more minutes, Coach Frank Layden has used rookie Jose Ortiz as the token starter and also played rookie Eric Leckner occasionally at forward.

"I view it as a change in personnel," Iavaroni says. "I can't sit here and complain."

Iavaroni has appeared in all 11 games this year but twice has avoided his first "Did not play" since Jan. 4 only by doing mop-up duty in blowouts. Now that forward-center Mike Brown is healthy, Layden is toying with changes in the playing rotation like starting Bailey, and may have to take away all of Iavaroni's time.

His outlook? "You have to make the most of your situation; all those cliches," he mused. "I don't feel as involved, and that's normal."

But the 32-year-old Iavaroni is valued enough by the Jazz that he's apparently not vulnerable to the roster move that will come this week when guard Bobby Hansen is activated.

"He's valuable, because he keeps the same mentality all the time," noted Layden. "He's a Rich Kelley. He helps the young players. If you asked him to play point guard, he would."

Iavaroni, known throughout his seven-year NBA career as a specialized role player, finds himself with this job description: "I have to do more things off the court - set an example in practice, help the young players with the plays," he says. "I think I contribute."

No doubt, Iavaroni is approaching a career crossroads. After he and the Jazz failed to reach a contract extension agreement last summer, he'll become the team's first-ever unrestricted free agent when the season ends. His attorney, David Falk, figured by turning down a Jazz offer that Iavaroni could command a lucrative free-agent deal like the one former Laker forward Kurt Rambis signed with Charlotte.

"Right now, I want to do what's best for the team," Iavaroni said. "Once I'm free, I have to start worrying about myself."