|Sonics' triple challenge: finding a new coach, GM, home|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 25 April 2007 14:35|
The team that recently ended its worst season in 21 years began its search Wednesday to replace Bob Hill and Rick Sund. First-year Sonics owner Clay Bennett, who fired the coach and GM after Seattle finished 31-51, is leading the searches with team vice chairman Lenny Wilkens.
``He really intends to be heavily involved,'' Bennett spokesman Jim Kneeland said of the owner, disputing the idea that the Sonics' sixth coach in nine years and a new GM are Wilkens' men to choose while Bennett searches for the team's home beyond next season.
Rick Adelman, the former Portland, Golden State and Sacramento coach; and former Sonics assistant and Minnesota coach Dwane Casey are emerging as top candidates who have experience running an NBA team. That would seem a requirement, because Bennett has only one basketball man he trusts currently in Seattle: Wilkens.
A message left for Wilkens was returned by team spokesman Tom Savage. He said Wilkens would not speak about the searches on Wednesday, but may soon.
These explorations have a twist: Whoever accepts the jobs won't know where they will be working in 12 months.
Last week, Bennett said the Sonics will likely move following the after next season, their 41st in Seattle. That's because his proposal to use public money to fund the majority of a $500 million suburban arena failed to even make it to a vote in the state Legislature.
``We're open to suggestions, but right now we don't see a way to do this here,'' Kneeland said Bennett told a closed-door meeting of Seattle's convention and visitors bureau on Wednesday. ``We're at the point where we've got to start looking at other options.''
Yet Kneeland said of the owner: ``He is pretty confident he will find basketball people who are willing to relocate, even if they don't know where they will be.
``It's a lot harder on the administrative staff. But for basketball people, there are only 30 teams. There aren't many of these jobs available. He won't have a problem attracting people.''
Tuesday, Bennett turned off much of the shrinking pockets of Seattle that care about the Sonics.
He fired Hill over the phone, hours after Hill had surgery for a hernia near his home in San Antonio. Then Bennett released a short, bland news release. He did not face the myriad questions surrounding his drifting franchise.
Kneeland said the owner felt a press conference in Seattle to announce Hill's firing and Sund's demotion to become a ``consultant'' would spiral into a heated inquiry on why the team is about to leave.
``He wanted the issue to be about them,'' Kneeland said of Hill and Sund and their potential replacements.
Phoenix assistant Marc Iavaroni is a hot name for any coaching vacancy. And Rick Carlisle, a playoff coach for five consecutive seasons with Detroit and Indiana, is available. The Pacers fired him Wednesday.
Adelman, 60, did not return a message seeking comment on Wednesday but reportedly is interested in the job. He's been semiretired in Portland, Ore., for the last year since the Kings, whom he led to the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons, fired him.
Casey, 50, arrived in Seattle as an assistant in 1994 and left in 2004, when the Timberwolves hired him. He is known as a defensive mind. Defense was one of many things the Sonics did not do last season, haven't done for years - and may not do anytime soon if most of the same players stick around.
Wilkens, who turns 70 in October, has repeatedly said he does not want to coach again. He won an NBA-record 1,332 games in 32 seasons - 11 of which were in Seattle - before the Knicks fired him midway through the 2004-05 season. But he appears to be an ideal GM choice.
Bennett sought out Wilkens immediately after he bought the team and made him the Sonics' new vice chairman. The team's color analyst on game broadcasts also has a knowledge of the current roster that few around the league have of this recently irrelevant team of Ray Allen and anonymous underachievers from the far, upper corner of the country.
If he isn't the GM himself, Wilkens will likely be the man to whom the new GM will answer. That makes sexy, pipe-dream candidate Jerry West, the former Lakers and Grizzlies executive, less likely than an overlooked, respected and cheaper personnel man.
Such as San Antonio's R.C. Buford or Sam Presti.
Buford has been the Spurs general manager since 2002. He has won two NBA championships while more renowned coach Gregg Popovich, the previous GM, gets most of the credit. Buford joined the Spurs in 1994, two years after Bennett became a part owner of the team. Bennett was San Antonio's representative for the NBA's board of governors from 1992-97, the Oklahoma City businessman's only time with an NBA team before he began running the Sonics in November.
Presti is regarded as one of the league's fast-rising executives. This season, Buford expanded his assistant GM's role from scouting to include the business ends of the Spurs.