Former Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey has the inside track for the Atlanta Hawks' job, three sources familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday.
Casey, an assistant for Rick Carlisle on the Dallas bench who's attracted interest from several teams in the market for a coach, has a strong relationship with Hawks GM Rick Sund from their days in Seattle together. Plus, considering the likelihood that Casey would fit under the Hawks' $2 million annual budget for a head coach, it looks like "his job to lose," one of the sources said. Casey and the Hawks' brass were planning to discuss the opening in Chicago during the pre-draft camp this week.
A second source familiar with the situation, however, noted that Sund is in the process of formulating a list of 4-5 candidates to interview for the position vacated when Mike Woodson's contract was not renewed after an embarrassing second-round sweep at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Mark Jackson, the broadcaster and former player, is one of those expected to be interviewed, the source said. Sund also is interested in speaking with Blazers assistant Dean Demopoulos, among others. Casey, one of the sources said, will have to earn the job.
While the Hawks are expected to target Casey and the Sixers have agreed to terms with Doug Collins, several other teams are in holding patterns in their coaching searches. The Bulls, Clippers and Nets are in no rush to hire a coach, particularly with all that is riding on their pursuit of LeBron James and other free agents when the negotiating period opens July 1. No team in the running for those elite players wants to give up the negotiating power of allowing the player to have input on the coaching hire. The Clippers, sources say, also are holding out hope that Larry Brown could be persuaded to take over a young, talented roster with cap space for a max free agent. And with Phil Jackson's future with the Lakers in limbo, there's a pie-in-the-sky theory that perhaps Jackson could be persuaded to move across the hall at Staples Center and take on a reclamation project -- especially if he can't come to terms with Dr. Jerry Buss on how much of a pay cut he's expected to take.
The other shoe to drop -- and it's a big one-- is Mike Brown in Cleveland. Brown and most of his staff are expected to be fired "sooner than later," according to a person familiar with the Cavs' organizational dynamics. According to that person, letting Brown go will come with a softer-than-expected financial blow because of an unusual circumstance in which Brown's salary for next season is only half guaranteed.
If and when Brown is let go, he immediately would become a candidate for any team with an opening that isn't a realistic destination for James. No team hoping to lure James would hire a coach who was just fired at his behest.