COACHING CASH: Pat Riley of the Miami Heat tops the NBA coaches salary list for 1997-98. Riley will make $8 million this season according to a USA Today report. He is followed in order by: Rick Pitino, Celtics ($7 million); Phil Jackson, Bulls ($6 million); Lenny Wilkens, Hawks ($5.63 million); Larry Brown, 76ers ($5 million); Mike Fratello, Cavaliers ($5 million); Chuck Daly, Magic ($4.8 million); Larry Bird, Pacers ($4.7 million); Rudy Tomjanovich, Rockets ($4.5 million); Don Nelson, Mavericks ($4 million); George Karl, SuperSonics ($3.5 million); P.J. Carlesimo, Warriors ($3 million); John Calipari, Nets ($3 million); Gregg Popovich, Spurs ($2.8 million); Mike Dunleavy, Trail Blazers ($2.3 million); Danny Ainge, Suns ($2 million); Jeff Van Gundy, Knicks ($2 million); Brian Hill, Grizzlies ($2 million); Bernie Bickerstaff, Wizards ($1.5 million); Del Harris, Lakers ($1.4 million); Bill Hanzlik, Nuggets ($1.4 million); Flip Saunders, Timberwolves ($1.3 million); Jerry Sloan, Jazz ($1.25 million); Bill Fitch, Clippers ($1.25 million); Chris Ford, Bucks ($1.23 million); Eddie Jordan, Kings ($600,000); Dave Cowens, Hornets ($500,000); Butch Carter, Raptors ($350,000); Alvin Gentry, Pistons ($350,000).

HE'S BAAACK: Sixers coach Larry Brown didn't hesitate in offering former NBA center Benoit Benjamin a 10-day contract.

"When I saw he was in Yakima (playing with the CBA's Sun Kings), I knew I wanted him," Brown said. "Anyone willing to leave home and go to Yakima to revive his career can play for me."

WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Suns assistant coach Scott Skiles wasn't too happy his boss, Danny Ainge, was ejected in the first quarter of a recent win over the Denver Nuggets.

"He came in and said `What a great time to make me coach my first game on television. I've got a zit on my lip and a spot on my tie,' " Ainge mused.

RECIPE FOR DISASTER: Chicago's recent loss at Dallas may best be explained by Robert Stack over at "Unsolved Mysteries." The Bulls did some awful strange things down the stretch in blowing a 10-point lead in the final 1:15 of regulation. Coach Phil Jackson began clipping his fingernails; Scottie Pippen was whistled for an over-and-back violation and later for failing to throw the ball in-bounds within the allotted five seconds; and both Steve Kerr and Michael Jordan missed critical free throws.

"The last few minutes of the game, we were playing like we were up 30," Kerr said.

The Mavericks capitalized and went on to win 104-97 in overtime. "It hurts a lot to lose this game," Jordan said.

COLLINS FINDS A JOB: Former Detroit Pistons coach Doug Collins has joined NBC as a basketball analyst. He will join the network's top broadcast team of Bob Costas and Isaiah Thomas. His multiyear agreement begins later this month, when he makes his debut for a Sunday, March 29, game between the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers.

Collins, who spent the 1989-1994 seasons as an analyst with Turner Sports, was fired by the Pistons on Feb. 2.

ANOTHER IRON MIKE: Trail Blazers honored veteran play-by-play broadcaster Bill Schonely at last Tuesday's game with Cleveland. Schonely, one of the originals in the Trail Blazers organization, called his 2,500th game. In his 28th season, Schonely's tenure is second only in the NBA to Los Angeles legend Chick Hearn, who is in his 37th year with the Lakers. Hearn did his 3,000th game on Jan. 19. Schonely, who came to the Blazers in 1970, has been the team's radio play-by-play man every season except 1992-93 and 1993-94 when he moved over to call games for Blazers television. The 2,500 number includes preseason and playoff games, as well as regular-season contests.

Sound bite: "We joked last year that Malone was the MVP of the league and Stockton was MVP of Utah. If you gave me a choice of who to take off that team in a playoff series, I'd take Stockton." - Sonics coach George Karl.