1/24/97 -- 6:55 PM


UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - Mike Milbury resigned as coach of the New York Islanders on Friday, fulfilling the wishes of prospective team owner John Spano. Milbury will remain as general manager.

Earlier in the week, there were reports that Spano, whose purchase of the club awaits NHL approval, wanted Milbury off the bench and concentrating on the front office. His coaching job was handed over to assistant Rick Bowness.

Milbury had been the only general manager-coach in the NHL since the St. Louis Blues fired Mike Keenan earlier this year.

``Mike and I have been discussing this issue since last November and we discussed it again this week,'' Spano said in a release issued by the Islanders. ``The more we talked, the more we agreed that this is what is best for the franchise. I want that and, more than anyone, Mike wants that.''

``With the upcoming draft being so important to the plan we have put in place to improve this team, I believed this is the right time, and that Rick is the right guy,'' Milbury said in the statement.

Milbury was hired as coach in July 1995 and became GM five months later.

The Islanders, with a league-low 14 victories in 46 games, played the Whalers at Hartford on Friday night.

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