Before subjecting Ron Rothstein to all this trauma as the first coach of the Miami Heat, team officials went after Frank Layden, and later interviewed Jerry Sloan.

Imagine if Layden or Sloan were coming back to the Salt Palace Monday night packing 16 straight losses, instead of Layden easing into his retirement/presidency chair and Sloan adjusting to his new seat on the bench.Asked to picture himself in Miami when the streak hit 14 the other day, Layden joked, "We'd probably be 10 and 4."

While Layden could have talked to the Heat if he'd pressed the issue before owner Larry Miller denied Miami permission, he had to be convinced to even try coaching for one more season with the Jazz. Sloan was already told he would be the next Jazz coach, whenever that day arrived, but decided he'd at least listen to the Heat. He ended up finishing second to Rothstein, avoiding having to bring the offer back to Miller or make a choice.

In his interview, Sloan learned of the Heat's philosophy of totally building for the future with young players and draft picks, while Charlotte tries to make immediate progress. One of the side effects of that was the Heat's finding themselves trying to avoid the most losses ever to start an NBA season, in Chicago tonight. "It seems to me, that's the right way to go about it," Sloan said of the Miami plan. "I'm not knocking Charlotte or anything, but I was impressed by what they were doing."

One of the questions Sloan was asked was: "How would you be able to handle losing all those games?"

He says now, "I never had any reservations about that part of it at all . . . I knew it was going to be awfully tough to win games."

Sloan was once an expansion player himself - one of the best ever, in fact. And his Chicago team went 33-48 and made the playoffs. "It does seem amazing, now that I look back on it," he says.

Asked about Miami the day before he stepped down, Layden said, "You've got to realize before you start with an expansion team that it's going to be rough. Are they hustling? Are they working hard? That's the main thing. Winning games is next. As much as you say that, losing is tough. I find myself wanting to win the (summertime) Stokes all-star game."

*** POOR AKEEM: While the Jazz are not happy with the treatment John Stockton is receiving, imagine this: Houston is complaining about Akeem Olajuwon's being roughed up. "They are not treating (Olajuwon) like a star," said Coach Don Chaney. "He's among the league leaders in every category, and he's getting treated like a first-year player . . . Akeem is getting beat to death on one end and doesn't get a call. Then, he goes down to the other end and gets a foul for a little thump. He's getting killed out there." Rockets general manager Ray Patterson spoke with NBA chief of offficials Darell Garretson about the issue.

*** AT RANDOM: Asked about the pressure of avoiding the record, Rothstein said, "To quote one former NBA player, I'm amphibious to the whole situation." . . . The list of CBA players, and their local ties: Albany guard Kelvin Upshaw (Utah); Charleston forward Jimmy Miller (Jazz draft '85); Topeka guard Ricky Grace (Jazz camp '88) and forward Jim Rowinski (Jazz draft '84); Cedar Rapids center Steve Hayes (Jazz '86) and guards Jeff Moe (Jazz draft '88) and guard Ron Rowan (Jazz camp '88); LaCrosse forward Marty Simmons (Jazz camp '88); Quad City guard Ray Hall (Jazz draft '85); Rapid City forward Tom Gneiting (BYU); and Rockford guards Pace Mannion (Utah, Jazz '86) and Kenny Natt (Jazz '84) . . .

After Miami's 98-96 loss to Sacramento (No. 14) Wednesday, forward Scott Hastings said, "I think we had a win staring us in the face, and it scared us." Guard Rory Sparrow's description, after the Heat led entering the fourth quarter for the first time: "It was like we set the table, cooked all the food, and somebody else came in and ate it."

After Magic Johnson's 35-foot heave forced overtime in the Forum and the Lakers went on to win, Washington's John Williams said, "That's why they say you've got to believe in magic." Correction: He should have said: in the Great Western Forum. Yes, even the Lakers have gone the corporate route, in the Arco Arena tradition . . . The Bullets' Wes Unseld is one coach who advocates fouling in that situation, ahead by three. "First of all, you can't let Magic catch the ball in that situation. But if he does, you have to nail him. Two points wouldn't have beat us, but three points gave them a new life," Unseld said . . . Not only did Danny Ainge once ask Jazz general manager David Checketts to be his agent, so did pitcher Bruce Hurst.