FALCONS SIGN PICK: The Atlanta Falcons and top draft choice, Georgia Tech linebacker Keith Brooking, agreed on a six-year contract that would make him the highest-paid rookie in franchise history.


HALL OF FAME: Larry Bird, whose talent and tenacity led the Boston Celtics to three championships and the NBA into a new era of prominence, was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Also chosen were another basketball wizard, Marques Haynes of the Harlem Globetrotters, former coach Alex Hannum, early NBA big man Arnie Risen, current Texas women's coach Jody Conradt, and ex-Yugoslavian coach Aleksandar Nikolic.

Bird was rookie of the year in 1980, MVP from 1984-86 and Finals MVP in 1984 and 1986. He was designated one of the NBA's 50 best players, and chosen coach of the year with Indiana last seas-on.

Hannum spent 16 seasons as a coach with seven NBA and ABA teams, winning three championships.

Conradt, the winningest women's coach, has spent 22 seasons at Texas, and has 709 wins overall.


BLACKHAWKS COACH: Dirk Graham was hired as Chicago Blackhawks coach, inheriting a team that missed the playoffs last season for the first time in three decades.

Graham, a scout with the Blackhawks last season, replaces Craig Hartsburg, who was fired two months ago. Graham was an assistant under Hartsburg in 1995-96 after eight seasons as a player in Chicago, more than six as team captain.

OTTAWA GM RESIGNS: Pierre Gauthier, the most successful general manager in the brief history of the Ottawa Senators, resigned.

Gauthier resurrected a franchise in disarray when he was hired from Anaheim and signed a five-year contract in December 1995. Gauthier became the Senators' third general manager in less than four tumultuous NHL seasons.