Ed Pinckney was more than comfortable for four seasons as an assistant coach at Villanova. This was his school. This was where he helped the Wildcats win an NCAA championship in 1985. This was home.

But Pinckney also has designs on someday becoming a head coach at some level. And somewhere along the way, he began to understand that perhaps spending too long on the staff at his alma mater might create a false impression.

"I didn't want people to get the impression that I wasn't interested in becoming a head coach," said Pinckney, in his first season as an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I think everybody aspires to reach the highest level, and if you're at your alma mater, if you appear comfortable, it could create a perception of people thinking you're never going to leave."

But he had left the Miami Heat, where he had worked as a radio and TV analyst and as director of the team's mentoring program. Before this season started, he had been approached for coaching positions with the Orlando Magic and the Sixers. A call to T-Wolves assistant Jerry Sichting for information about a coaching clinic escalated into a call from head coach Randy Wittman, a former NBA teammate.

"I just called to get some notes on the clinic, and the next thing I knew, [Wittman] had a job opening," Pinckney said.

At first, Pinckney wondered whether an assistant's job in the pros would help or hinder his attempts to get a head-coaching job on the college level. But he quickly rethought that premise.

"In essence, a good coach is a good coach," he said before last night's game against the 76ers. "Nobody guarantees that you're going to become a head coach. There's nothing written down that says Ed Pinckney is going to be a head coach. I didn't know if I would ever have this opportunity again."

Jay Wright, Villanova's head coach, basically said, "Go for it."

"He proved himself here as a great recruiter," Wright said. "He had great value to us, but we have Brett Gunning as our associate head coach and we have Pat Chambers on the staff. When people would call, they would ask to talk about the associate head coach. I told Eddie he could always come back, but that this would be a different part of his resume."

Said Pinckney: "Jay was awesome. He laughed and said, 'People think I'm trying to keep you [from going].' I learned a ton there. I don't know if I would have stayed [as long as I did] had I been anywhere else. He allowed me to grow."

Pinckney retired as a player in 1997 after logging time with seven teams, including the Sixers. He was the first-round pick of the Phoenix Suns in 1985 after piling up 1,865 points and 1,107 rebounds in his Villanova career.

Randy less than dandy

Timberwolves guard Randy Foye, the former Villanova star, remains out as a stress reaction in his left kneecap continues to heal. He has yet to play in this, his second season, and is expected to miss another 3 to 4 weeks.

"It's sad," said Jay Wright, who visited with Foye on campus yesterday. "At this point, Ed Pinckney and [new Villanova assistant] Doug West have been talking to him, trying to keep him strong, telling him you can't feel sorry for yourself. When you've only been in the league for 1 year, you might not understand that."

Foye has been told he can increase his workout schedule in terms of running and jumping as long as he experiences no pain or swelling.

He averaged 10.1 points and 2.8 assists as a rookie, appearing in all 82 games. He scored 1,966 points in four seasons at Villanova, and averaged 20.5 points and 5.8 assists as a senior. *