Suns complete coaching interviews

Updated: June 4, 2008, 8:53 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- The search for a replacement for Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni apparently is down to four candidates.

While Suns general manager Steve Kerr didn't call them finalists, he praised the four individually and said all remained under consideration.

The last of the group, San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, was interviewed Tuesday, one day after Detroit Pistons assistant Terry Porter had his second interview for the job. Two other assistant coaches, Elston Turner of Houston and Tyrone Corbin of Utah, also have had second interviews.

"We're getting a lot closer," Kerr told reporters Wednesday. "Our interview process is probably completed. There may be a few more phone conversations. But we're really pleased with the candidates that we've put together."

Kerr indicated that Flip Saunders, fired as Pistons' head coach Tuesday, will not be added to the mix.

"We're pretty far in our process," Kerr said. "I have a lot of respect for him, but I also think the process we've undertaken is a good one. We feel really good about it. I don't feel like changing course altogether and doing something that's just totally out of the blue."

The methodical search for D'Antoni's replacement might come to an end next week.

Porter said he had not heard from the Suns since a lengthy second interview on Monday.

"I think I'm still in the mix. They haven't told me I wasn't," Porter told The Associated Press in a brief telephone conversation. "I'm still working for the Pistons, so I'm just letting the process work itself out."

Another Pistons assistant, Michael Curry, is considered the leading candidate to replace Saunders in Detroit, with Porter a potential alternative.

Porter, who played in the NBA for 17 seasons, is the only one of the four known remaining candidates with head coaching experience, with two seasons at the helm of the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Terry was great. We brought him in a second time for a reason," Kerr said. "I think very highly of Terry going back to when we were teammates together in San Antonio. He got a chance to come in and kind of share some more thoughts and views of our team and a vision for our future, so it was a good meeting."

Budenholzer wasn't available to be interviewed until the Spurs were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

"Mike was fantastic," Kerr said. "I played for him in San Antonio for four years. He's been there for 12. He came in really, really well-prepared. He had a great vision for our future and our team, and it didn't surprise me. It's the reason we brought him in."

Kerr recalled that he was impressed with Corbin when the two were teammates in Phoenix long ago.

"I've always admired the Jazz organization and he's done a great job on their staff," Kerr said. "With Elston, it's a similar situation. I didn't know Elston as a player, but he has a very impressive resume as an assistant coach, under Rick Adelman particularly. He comes very highly regarded around the league. So both guys are in the mix and very impressive."

D'Antoni resigned after four highly successful seasons in Phoenix, but his Suns were never able to make it past the conference finals. After the Suns were eliminated in the first round by San Antonio this year, D'Antoni decided to leave for the New York Knicks rather than make some changes that Kerr wanted.

The new coach will take over a talented but aging roster that features former MVPs Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal, along one of the league's best front-line players in Amare Stoudemire.

Kerr interviewed former players Mark Jackson, Jeff Hornacek and Vinny Del Negro, but said their lack of coaching experience was "kind of a red flag."

Kerr said he, owner Robert Sarver and vice president for basketball operations David Griffin would take some time to evaluate what they've learned.

"All these guys are really impressive or we wouldn't be talking to them in the first place, and all of them come very highly recommended," Kerr said. "With all of them you walk away and say, `Wow, that's impressive.' So then you need to just settle down and go `All right, let's picture how this would work.'

"You're better off, I think, to take a couple of days and let that simmer before you make any decisions."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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