It's too early to identify a front-runner in the Sixers' search for a new head coach, but the team has conducted a thorough background check on Golden State assistant Mike Malone, league sources told CBSSports.com.
Sixers brass have contacted the Warriors multiple times about Malone, including several conversations with consultant Jerry West, who has been supportive of Malone's efforts to land a head coaching job. The Sixers have gone so far as to consult players who've played under both Malone and San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer to get a feel for how the candidates differ, one of the people with knowledge of the situation said.
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Malone, the strategic backbone of Golden State's run to the conference semifinals against the Spurs, also has served as an assistant for the Hornets, Cavaliers and Knicks.
So far, the Sixers plan to interview Malone and Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek for the job vacated when Doug Collins stepped down and moved into an advisory role after the season. The organization also has shown interest in Budenholzer, who has interviewed for the Pistons opening, as did former Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter.
To the surprise of some rival executives, the Sixers' coaching search is being spearheaded by GM Tony DiLeo, whose contract expires this summer. With team president Rod Thorn moving into a consulting role and DiLeo's contract expiring, rival execs expect the Sixers to engage in a search for a new head of basketball operations, as well. In fact, that process has already begun through back-channel conversations, one person contacted on the Sixers' behalf told CBSSports.com.
There are six head coaching openings after the Nets decided not to bring back interim coach P.J. Carlesimo on Sunday. GM Billy King, who just agreed to a contract extension, told reporters he planed to reach out to 11-time champion coach Phil Jackson about the opening -- though Jackson is widely believed to be seeking a front-office role with a team that would not include returning to the bench. Pacers president Donnie Walsh will grant the Nets permission to interview assistant coach Brian Shaw -- whom Jackson unsuccessfully groomed to replace him with the Lakers -- after Indiana's playoff run is over.
Nets star Deron Williams has endorsed his former coach, Jerry Sloan, for the job and also has a strong relationship with Hornacek -- who has attracted interest from the Bobcats, Suns and Bucks, sources said.
The Suns also are in the advanced stages of their search for a GM to replace the fired Lance Blanks, with the latest word being that Celtics assistant GM Ryan McDonough's candidacy has gained momentum. Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman has been viewed as the favorite in some circles, and the Suns also have interviewed Spurs executive Scott Layden.
The Clippers (Vinny Del Negro) and Hawks (Larry Drew) also are expected to have head coaching vacancies in the near future, league sources said. The Clippers are said to be "exploring all options," while the Hawks' decision on Drew's future is expected "sooner than later," sources said. It is widely believed that Hawks GM Danny Ferry prefers to install his own head coach in Atlanta.