Johnson to talk with Hornets, 76ers

Updated: May 2, 2010, 9:21 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The New Orleans Hornets will interview ESPN analyst Avery Johnson about their coaching vacancy next week.

Johnson confirmed he will meet with Hornets officials Tuesday, a day after meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers about their vacancy.

The 76ers announced they met with TNT analyst Doug Collins on Saturday.

Collins met with 76ers president and general manager Ed Stefanski, senior vice president and assistant GM Tony DiLeo and consultant Gene Shue on Saturday in Phoenix.

"We had a very productive meeting yesterday with Doug to discuss the position and his philosophies," Stefanski said. "He is someone who has a proven track record as a head coach and has great knowledge of the game. We appreciate him taking the time to meet with us.

"We will continue our due diligence on all the candidates as we continue to narrow our search for a new head coach."

The Philadelphia Daily News reported earlier this week that Johnson will be the first candidate formally interviewed by the Sixers, despite persistent speculation in recent weeks that Philadelphia wants to rehire Larry Brown away from the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Sixers and Hornets, sources say, have some of the same candidates in mind, most notably Johnson and Collins.

The Hornets have had preliminary contact with Johnson, Collins and ESPN analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson to gauge their interest, and also are expected to consider several assistant coaches.

Two of those assistants -- Dallas' Dwane Casey and Portland's Monty Williams -- were working in the playoffs until Thursday night, when their teams were eliminated in the first round.

Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this month that former New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer are also on the Hornets' radar.

Although the proposed sale from longtime Hornets owner George Shinn to minority owner Gary Chouest has not been completed, sources close to the situation maintain Shinn is far down the line in negotiations. It remains likely the sale to the locally based Hornets part-owner will happen despite their reported "impasse."

Yet it's unclear what effect ongoing delays in the sale negotiations will have on the Hornets' coaching search, given that high-profile candidates such as Johnson and Collins are unlikely to consider taking the job unless Chouest has secured control of the franchise.

Hornets president Hugh Weber recently told local reporters the team was willing to pay top dollar for a new coach and said: "I think we'd gravitate towards someone's who had success on the pro level."

Johnson is a New Orleans native who has been working for ESPN since leaving the Dallas Mavericks in May 2008 with a coaching record of 194-70 in three-plus seasons.

Collins, 58, last coached in the NBA in 2003 but has been approached by several teams in the intervening years, most recently Milwaukee and Chicago in summer 2008, and Philadelphia and Detroit in 2009. He has chosen to stay in TV, which keeps him connected to the game but also enables him to stay close to his family.

Brown, who turns 70 in September, said Friday at an end-of-season media session in Charlotte that he doesn't want uncertainty about his future to "drag on" and insisted that "I still want to coach," but not for anyone else besides Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.

Speaking at a pro-am golf tournament earlier this week, Jordan was quoted as saying: "I'm not going to let [Brown] go so easily. There are rumors out there, but right now they are rumors. Until he comes to me and says anything otherwise, it's business as usual."

The Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets, Sixers and Hornets have the league's four current coaching openings.

Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics