HOUSTON (AP) _ A career criminal who strangled a theater manager with his hands and a telephone cord after she resisted in a holdup was spared execution Monday, about 11 hours before he was to die.

Clifford X. Phillips,who also goes by the name of Abdullah Bashir, was granted the stay by U.S. District Judge Norman Black.

''It's good for us and good for Clifford. He'll be around for a while,'' said attorney Robert Pelton, whose appeal cited errors during the trial.

''The guilt or innocence was not an issue,'' Pelton said.

Pelton said it would be up to the state attorney general's office to file briefs in response to their motions. No date for a hearing was set.

Phillips, 52, was condemned to die for the 1982 slaying of Iris Siff, managing director of Houston's Alley Theater. Mrs. Siff was strangled at the theater and robbed of several possessions, including her Lincoln Continental.

Phillips had worked at the theater as a security guard for about a month in 1981 before being fired for sleeping on the job.

In a confession to police, he said he sneaked into the theater and strangled Mrs. Siff, who was working late, when she resisted a holdup attempt.

''I realized that it was a pretty gruesome thing that I had done,'' Phillips said. He added that Mrs. Siff, 58, fought him and the slaying was self-defense.

Police arrested him in Los Angeles on a Houston arson charge about three weeks after the slaying.

Phillips' police file begins in 1951, with an arrest in Buffalo, N.Y., as a wayward minor. It also includes a 1969 manslaughter conviction for the slaying of his 3-year-old son, whose body was found in a suitcase in New York City.

Two other inmates face lethal injection this week.

Randy Woolls, 36, convicted of killing a drive-in movie clerk in 1979, is scheduled for injection Wednesday. Larry Smith, convicted of killing a Dallas convenience store clerk, has a Friday execution date.

Richard Andrade, 25, convicted of the rape-slaying of a Corpus Christi woman in 1984, was granted a stay of his Wednesday execution by a federal judge in Corpus Christi on Monday.