It could be an interesting few days ahead as they pertain to the Kings coaching search, as Monday's interview with Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis in Los Angeles appears to have served as the final step before a decision is made.
There's no reason to think that more candidates would be added to the list that includes Rambis, Paul Westphal and Tom Thibodeau. And judging from the conversations I had tonight, I'd call it a close race between Westphal and Rambis with Thibodeau bringing up the rear. To be clear, that's more of a sense on my end than it is an indirect statement from anybody of relevance in this situation.
Now before I move on to sharing my chat with Kings co-owner Joe Maloof following the Rambis interview, I wanted to add a few tidbits regarding Westphal. I focus on him only because there has been some spirited debate back and forth among fans regarding the notion of him as the next coach.
These nuggets are meant to add to the data pool, with no commentary coming from my end because the necessary goal is to cover the process and not affect it. Our resident columnist, to be clear, is paid to have an opinion (yes, that was a preemptive maneuver).
* With so many folks curious as to how and why Westphal was fired from his Seattle post in 2000 only to - as they say - fall off the face of the NBA planet, that's not entirely true. Yes, he spent five seasons of declining success (or, you could say, increasing failure) at Pepperdine, but he was also on the short list of candidates for the Boston job in 2004 (with Avery Johnson and eventual coach Doc Rivers). Ainge - who raved about his former coach from their Phoenix days recently - confirmed with me today that Westphal was being considered back then.
As I noted in a recent blog, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Westphal was considered for the Dallas job last summer before it went to Rick Carlisle. Westphal, who was an assistant on Johnson's staff, moved up to the front office as the team's executive vice president of basketball operations (as a right-hand man to GM Donnie Nelson). Interestingly, he spent very little time around the team and was based in Los Angeles. I have yet to find out why that was the case. The point to all of this was that he hadn't fallen completely off the NBA radar by any means.
* I've been told by two folks who know that if Westphal gets the job, he would strongly consider Mario Elie (current Dallas assistant who would have to be let out of his contract) and Terry Porter (former Kings assistant, Milwaukee and Phoenix head coach and longtime Petrie friend from Portland days) as assistants.
To review, Elie was a Kings head coaching candidate in 2006 before Eric Musselman got the job. As for Porter, he was on the original list in 2007 only to be frowned on by the Maloofs because of his ties to Rick Adelman and scratched off the list.
* On the general front: Don't look now, but the Kings could have competition again in this coaching race.
Minnesota is a very raw situation right now, with new GM David Kahn in the process of talking with Kevin McHale about his coaching future. If that future winds up being a head coaching vacancy (as many believe will be the case) and the Kings have yet to pull the trigger on a candidate, you could see a repeat scenario to Philadelphia in which a Kings candidate gets wooed away.
OK, now on to Joe Maloof's thoughts about Rambis and the overall status of the coaching situation. I also included a Petrie statement at the bottom from the team's web site.
"We had a great meeting. We've know him throughout the years. He's a very, very dynamic, smart man, very intelligent. Like before (in previous interviews), we were very impressed with him. He knows his stuff...They're great candidates, all three of them. They're all really good. We'll have to circle back with Geoff a little later and see what he thinks. I'm pretty sure we'll have a decision pretty quickly.
On whether seeing Eddie Jordan go to Philadelphia and the possible threat of more head coaching vacancies will speed up their process...
"I think we all wanted to take our time this go-round, really take our time and spend some time with each of the candidates, and that's what we've done. I think that was more of the gameplan this go-round was to take our time and make sure that we analyzed each of the candidates and took our time with that. There was really never any hurry. It's a time of the year when you really can take an opportunity to look at the different candidates a little longer than usual."
On whether they'll add names to the list...
"I haven't spoken to Geoff about any other candidates, and he hasn't spoken to us about that. I don't know if he has anybody else that he wants us to interview. He still may, you'd better ask him. I'm not sure. I'm not aware of any others."
On why Thibodeau was considered despite Petrie's initial parameters that he'd prefer a coach with previous head coaching experience...
"Well (Thibodeau) has such an outstanding reputation around the league. Everybody likes him. He's a tireless worker. He doesn't really have too many hobbies, just basketball - just like the other candidates. They're all really dedicated to the basketball part of their lives. He's a hard worker, with a great reputation around the league. Different people have called us and asked what our feelings were, so we thought this was an opportunity to interview him."
"Kurt did an excellent job of communicating his thoughts on our head coaching position and our roster over the course of a two-and-a-half hour interview. His experience having been around so many championship teams over the years really shines through when you have a chance to sit down and talk with him about the necessary elements to win in this league.
"He has some strong beliefs in what it takes to succeed on both ends of the floor. We really appreciate him taking the time to go through this process with us as he is working so diligently in preparation for the Finals." - Sam Amick