- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The New Orleans Hornets offered their vacant coaching job to Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau last week, but they're prepared to move on if Thibodeau has not accepted the job before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Hornets don't want to let their coaching search drag beyond this week and plan to offer the job instead to Portland Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams if Thibodeau, architect of Boston's vaunted defense, doesn't accept by Thursday.
Thibodeau, however, might have other options himself. The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site Wednesday night that Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman flew to Los Angeles to formally interview Thibodeau, although the newspaper also reported that the meeting had not taken place as of nearly 11 p.m. ET.
Earlier Wednesday, ESPN.com reported that Thibodeau likewise had his first interview with the New Jersey Nets earlier this week before the Celtics left Tuesday for Los Angeles.
Sources say that Thibodeau's reluctance to accept the Hornets' offer -- his first head-coaching opportunity in the NBA -- stems not only from Boston's ongoing postseason obligations but from Thibodeau's desire to see how serious the Nets and Bulls are about hiring him.
The Bulls have spoken informally to former Nets coach Lawrence Frank, former Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale, Rockets assistant Elston Turner and Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks, but the Thibodeau talks will constitute their first formal interview, the Tribune reported.
During Boston's Eastern Conference finals series against Orlando, Thibodeau emerged as the top choice of Hornets general manager Jeff Bower, who is close with ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, perhaps Thibodeau's biggest fan in the coaching business. But rumblings persist that Hornets star Chris Paul would prefer Williams, who got his coaching start under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio before joining the Blazers.
The Hornets made a formal offer to Thibodeau early last week, according to sources with knowledge of the talks. Although Thibodeau has never held a position higher in the NBA than his current role as associate head coach in Boston, his stock has never been higher thanks to the Celtics' unexpected run to the Finals as the East's No. 4 seed.
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.
2dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann