Ramping up their search to replace Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets officials interviewed Mavericks assistant coach Dwane Casey for several hours on Thursday night in Dallas, according to sources close to the process.
The interview was arranged, with the Mavericks' consent, before Dallas took a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Lakers with a Game 2 win in L.A. on Wednesday night.
The Rockets formally requested permission to interview Casey on April 21. The Mavericks granted permission but told the Rockets that they'd like to delay the interview until after Dallas' first-round series with Portland so as not to disrupt the team's playoff preparations.
The Rockets have already interviewed a number of coaches as part of a broad search to replace Adelman, but sources told ESPN.com that Casey and Boston Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank have emerged as two of Houston's most serious targets. Although it's believed the Rockets have not yet narrowed their search to finalists, sources say they have made previous NBA head-coaching experience a prerequisite for the job.
The 54-year-old Casey has been waiting for second shot at a top job since being dismissed by the Minnesota Timberwolves with a record of 20-20 during the 2006-07 season. He narrowly missed out on coaching jobs last summer with the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers and could see his chances in Houston boosted by his association with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is highly regarded by the Rockets. Casey has been working largely as the Mavericks' defensive coordinator since coming to Dallas with Carlisle starting with the 2008-09 season.
"I'm shocked that we still have him here," Carlisle said recently. "He's that good. That situation will be addressed at the right time, but my level of respect for Dwane and what he's brought our team is extremely high."
Casey became the fifth former or current NBA head coach that the Rockets have interviewed. The club has also met with former Hawks coach Mike Woodson and Frank, who joined the Celtics as an assistant after nearly seven seasons coaching the New Jersey Nets.
Before sitting down with Casey, Houston also interviewed Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel on Thursday morning, according to a report by KRIV-TV in Houston. Vogel coached the Pacers' final 44 games after Jim O'Brien was fired, helping Indiana reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.
The Rockets on Wednesday interviewed Houston resident John Lucas -- who's had coaching stints with San Antonio, Philadelphia and Cleveland -- and still plan to interview TNT analyst Kevin McHale, who hired and fired Casey as the Timberwolves' GM and later moved to the Wolves' bench.
The Houston Chronicle reported this week that the Rockets, having vowed to speak with numerous candidates before making their choice, have likewise completed interviews with the following NBA assistant coaches: Milwaukee's Kelvin Sampson, Sacramento's Mario Elie, Houston's Jack Sikma and Washington's Sam Cassell. Elie and Cassell, like Lucas, played for the Rockets.
Other candidates from the assistant ranks who have been linked with the position include New Orleans' Michael Malone, San Antonio's Mike Budenholzer and the Lakers' Brian Shaw. But the Rockets' determination to hire a former NBA head coach and their high regard for Frank and Casey, sources said, have moved those two to the forefront of the search.
Senior writer Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.