On the first day the Sixers could reach out to Larry Brown to discuss his interest in returning to the organization he led to the 2001 NBA Finals, all was quiet on the Next Town front. The Sixers, according to sources, were busy little worker bees on Tuesday -- making a list of coaching candidates, checking it twice, doing background checks and the like.
But make no mistake. The Sixers' world as we know it is in the hands of Brown, who continues to artfully dodge the notion that he is angling to return to the city where his wife and children live.
After the Bobcats were swept by the defending conference champion Magic, Brown reiterated Monday night, "I'm not coaching anywhere but Charlotte," and,"I'm not coaching anywhere but for Michael Jordan." These statements were part sincere and part lawyerly. Coaching is one thing. Being in charge of the whole shebang is quite another.
So while the Sixers' basketball staff, led by team president Ed Stefanski, is finalizing its list of coaching candidates to reach out to by the end of the week, sources familiar with the situation say no one's quite sure who will actually be hiring the coach. That's because it's understood that Stefanski is conducting the preliminary search with the understanding that he won't be around if Brown, 70, decides to return to his adopted home as the head of basketball operations.
"It all depends on Larry Brown," a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Sixers chairman Ed Snider fought the good fight Tuesday, blasting a report by Yahoo! Sports that detailed Brown's interest, right down to the coach (Atlanta's Mike Woodson) and GM (Wizards front office man Milt Newton) he wanted to bring with him. But Snider never specified which part of the report he was disagreeing with, saying only that the team hadn't reached out to Brown -- which, technically was true.
Of course, in Brown's case, the idea of contact -- who initiates it, and when -- is largely irrelevant. He has become the Bill Parcells of the NBA -- always denying the obvious. Everybody knows where to find Brown when it's time to do business.
In the meantime, the Sixers have formulated a wide-ranging list of former NBA head coaches, current assistants and current college coaches. Once it's pared down, the team is expected to begin contacting candidates for interviews toward the end of the week. The list includes Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson, Sam Mitchell, Mike Fratello and Doug Collins among the former head coaches -- though there's little indication Van Gundy wants to return to the sideline. (Plus, why would any of the above interview for a job that could be decided by somebody else, namely Brown?)
Among the current assistants on the Sixers' list are Tom Thibodeau (Celtics), Dwane Casey (Dallas), Mike Budenholzer (Spurs), Monty Williams (Spurs), and Elston Turner (Rockets). The college coaches that have been discussed internally include all the usual suspects: Tom Izzo (Michigan State), John Calipari (Kentucky), Jay Wright (Villanova) and Rick Barnes (Texas).
But it really only comes down to one name if you're the Sixers. What can Brown do for you?