With Frank Layden staying in office, Jerry Sloan is another year - maybe five years - away from becoming the Jazz head coach. But the same Miami Heat that was interested in Layden may now look at Sloan, the Jazz's No. 1 assistant.

When Layden called Miami part-owner Billy Cunningham Thursday night to give him his answer about pursuing the Heat job, Cunningham said he intended to ask the Jazz for permission to talk to Sloan. Layden also endorsed Sloan, saying, "He's the best."Having kept the Heat from talking to Layden, Jazz owner Larry Miller said he would grant a request to interview Sloan if he were assured that Sloan was a top choice for the position and not merely one of several candidates. "I would be hard-pressed to turn that down," Miller said.

"No question, I would be interested in talking to them," Sloan said from his home in southern Illinois. "I'm not looking for a job, but I'm certainly interested in seeing what's going on. I would like to be a head coach, if I feel the circumstances are right."

No doubt, the Jazz want to keep Sloan until he can replace Layden. "The big question is," noted Miller, "will Jerry get offered a head coaching job before Frank's ready to retire?"

Sloan joined the Jazz in November 1984 when assistant coach Phil Johnson became Kansas City's head coach. In 1986, Sloan turned down an offer to become a Dallas assistant and was interviewed for Indiana's top job but withdrew before an offer was made.

While Sloan would be the Jazz coach today if Layden had gone to Miami or into the Jazz front office, his strong loyalty prevents him from being disappointed about Layden's staying. "I just hated to see anything happen," he said. "Frank's put the team together, and he reaped some of the rewards with the way we finished the season, and from my standpoint, it would have been very unfortunate if he had left."