Wolves search narrowed down to three

MINNEAPOLIS -- The three finalists for the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching vacancy have distinctly different resumes.

No wonder it's taking president David Kahn a long time to make a decision.

Kahn has spent the past seven weeks meticulously interviewing candidates and has settled on Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson and Houston assistant Elston Turner.

The Timberwolves, who are coming off a 24-58 season and in the early stages of a significant rebuild, are the only team in the league without a head coach.

Rambis is the longtime Lakers assistant and the only candidate with head coaching experience in the NBA. He coached the Lakers during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and has filled in for Phil Jackson several times over the years.

Two different reports said Thursday that Rambis was on the brink of being offered and accepting the job. But when asked by The Associated Press if the two sides were getting close to a deal, Kahn replied in a text message, "No."

Kahn said Wednesday that he is in a position to "do something within a week" and would like one or two of the candidates to meet with owner Glen Taylor before a decision is made. The Los Angeles Times first reported that Rambis had traveled to the Twin Cities on Wednesday night to meet with Wolves officials, but it was not immediately clear if Mark Jackson or Turner would be asked to do the same.

A member of ESPN and ABC's top broadcast team, Jackson probably edges Rambis as the biggest name in the group. The quintessential New York point guard, he played for seven teams during an impressive NBA career, most notably the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers.

He retired in 2004 and is second on the NBA's career assists list, which could make him an ideal candidate to tutor young point guards Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. But Jackson has never been a coach, making him the least experienced in the final pool.

That said, his duties as an analyst mean he is very familiar with the league and its players and he does have a connection to Kahn from their days working together in Indiana.

But Kahn has shown he is not afraid of making bold moves. He chose not to bring Kevin McHale back as coach despite votes of confidence from nearly every player on the team, then went through scouting and the draft without a head coach. He also raised eyebrows by selecting Flynn and Rubio back-to-back in the lottery in June.

Turner is the most anonymous of the candidates. He has been an assistant in the league for 12 years -- with Sacramento, Portland and the Rockets -- and has been impressive enough during interviews to keep him in the mix. Kahn spoke at length with Rockets coach Rick Adelman earlier this week about Turner, who has worked with Adelman for eight years with the Kings and Rockets.

Turner was viewed as a defensive specialist during eight seasons as a player with Denver, Dallas and Chicago.

Rambis was also known as a gritty player with the Lakers' dynasty that won four NBA titles in the 1980s. His name came up in the search to fill jobs in Sacramento and Philadelphia, and a move to Minnesota would be an adjustment for the California native who has been viewed as the heir apparent to Phil Jackson in Los Angeles.

The Hall of Fame coach is coming off his 10th career title, and fourth with the Lakers. But Jackson will turn 64 in September and has missed time with hip, foot and heart ailments in the last few years.