Source: Johnson talks with Hawks again

Updated: May 21, 2010, 8:24 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

For the second time in less than a week, Avery Johnson has been interviewed by the Atlanta Hawks for their vacant coaching job.

Johnson met with Hawks officials again Friday after Monday's introductory interview, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting, perhaps signaling the ESPN analyst is Atlanta's top choice to replace Mike Woodson.

The Hawks have also received permission from the Mavericks to interview Dallas assistant Dwane Casey, whom they are scheduled to meet with this weekend. The former Minnesota Timberwolves coach is widely regarded in coaching circles as the leading candidate to succeed Woodson, largely because of his long association with Hawks general manager Rick Sund from their time together in Seattle.

Atlanta's growing interest in Johnson comes as the New Orleans Hornets -- long considered to be the New Orleans native's most likely coaching destination -- appear to have elevated Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau and Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Monty Williams to the top of their wish list.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, quoting a league source, reported on its website Friday afternoon that Thibodeau and Williams are the two front-runners for the job.

One coaching source told ESPN.com the Hornets have not narrowed their search to a final two, but another source said Friday that New Orleans is indeed high on Thibodeau -- known as the defensive architect behind the Celtics' unexpected run to within two games of a return to the NBA Finals -- and Williams and could make a hire as soon as next week.

The Times-Picayune, quoting a source close to Johnson, reported in Friday's editions that Johnson wants to coach the Hornets only if minority owner Gary Chouest can complete his purchase of longtime owner George Shinn's 75 percent stake in the franchise. Johnson would also be seeking control of basketball operations in addition to his coaching duties.

Johnson also interviewed for the Philadelphia 76ers' job that went Thursday to TNT analyst Doug Collins. Johnson is also expected to receive an interview with the New Jersey Nets next week.

Casey, meanwhile, remains a top contender for the Los Angeles Clippers' vacancy in addition to the Atlanta job, sources say. He's also one of eight candidates interviewed by the Hornets to date, along with Johnson, Thibodeau, Williams, TNT's Mike Fratello, ESPN's Mark Jackson, former New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank and Utah Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin.

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

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