CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers' search for a new coach may rest in the bejeweled hands of Phil Jackson.
The Lord of NBA championship rings, Jackson, who just won his 11th title with the Los Angeles Lakers, said earlier this week that he is leaning toward retirement but that he won't have a final decision until next week -- at the earliest -- about returning.
Jackson's uncertainty not only effects the newly crowned champs but also impacts the Cavs, who are looking for a coach and have spoken to a number of candidates, including Lakers assistant Brian Shaw and former New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott.
The Cavs were granted permission earlier this week to speak with Shaw, who has been on Jackson's staff for five seasons. Cleveland has had preliminary discussions with the 43-year-old Shaw and plan to bring him in next week to meet with owner Dan Gilbert and front-office officials.
Shaw is regarded a rising star inside the league's coaching circle, and is believed to be Jackson's favorite to succeed him if the Zen Master steps aside. Shaw won three championships as a player before retiring in 2003 and taking over as the Lakers' scouting director.
Following Thursday's draft, Cavs general manager Chris Grant said the team would not rush to hire a coach before July 1 when free agency opens and megastar LeBron James hits the market.
"We're talking to a lot of people," said Grant, who has been on the job for less than a month since replacing Danny Ferry. "We have a plan and we have a process we're going through. We've talked about winning, communication, leadership, a defensive focus. Everyone is aware of what we're looking for. As we move through the process those things become clearer for us.
"As we get closer, the field will narrow itself down and we'll make a decision."
The Cavs can't mess this up.
With James' future unclear, they want to make sure they make the correct hire.
Scott's preference -- and wouldn't it be anyone's -- is to replace Jackson in Tinseltown. But he's intrigued about the possibility of coaching James. It's not known how long the Cavs are willing to wait on Scott, who would appear to be their front-runner.
The Cavs are impressed with Scott's pedigree -- seven NBA finals appearances as a player and coach -- and his past success handling star players like Chris Paul and Jason Kidd. Beyond that, he was teammates with both Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant and can therefore appreciate the challenges for a team with a talent such as James, assuming that is, that the two-time MVP stays in Cleveland.
Scott has had at least two conversations with the Cavs about replacing Mike Brown, who was fired in May despite leading them to the league's best record the last two seasons and past the first round of the playoffs in each of his five seasons in Cleveland.
Shaw's entry into the mix gives the Cavs another option if Scott's heart is set on pursuing his dream job in L.A., if Jackson retires.
The Cavs have already been rejected once. Last week, Michigan State's Tom Izzo turned down a reported $30 million offer, electing to stay in school rather than coach the Cavaliers, who couldn't guarantee him that he would have James on his roster. Izzo said James' situation played a big part in his decision.
Grant has also had talks with former Atlanta coach Mike Woodson and Milwaukee assistant Kelvin Sampson, but they are both believed to be below Scott and Shaw on Cleveland's wish list.