Sorry, coach. Come back Thursday

New Nets head coach Avery Johnson brought his media tour to Yankee Stadium tonight, stopping to meet and chat with Joe Girardi behind the batting cage before the game with the Phillies. he was given the VIP treatment, allowed to stand with one foot on the back of the cage next to the manager and chat up the players in-between swings. But Johnson, who had done a televised news conference and a radio show earlier in the day, was denied one honor by the Yankees -- the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

"We tried to get the first pitch,''a Nets spokesman said. "But they told us it was booked. They said they could give it to us Thursday.''

By then, Johnson will be back to basketball business, interviewing candidates for his coaching staff. Stil, he ofund plenty to chat about with Girardi, who he had never met before. "We're about the same age, so we got some things in common,'' Johnson said. "He works for a high-profile owner. I did (Mark Cuban) and still do (Mikail Prokhorov). So we had some things to discuss.''

Johnson also had a great big man-hug with Alex Rodriguez, who had gotten to know when he was an assistant coach with the Dallad Mavericks and A-Rod was playing for the Texas Rangers. "He used to come to the games and sit right next to our bench,'' Johnson said. "I used to have to make sure he didn;t stick his feet out and trip me while I was working the sidelines.''