Gherardini is one of five finalists

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The NBA has gone global with its product on the floor. Now, it may be ready to globalize a front office.

The Charlotte Bobcats interviewed Maurizio Gherardini, the general manager of Italy's highly successful Benetton Treviso club, for the same position with the expansion franchise, Friday's Charlotte Observer reported. Going after an overseas front office man might be considered unorthodox but Bobcats executive vice president Ed Tapscott believes Gherardini is a very qualified candidate.

"We are guys who want to look at things with a sense of innovation," Tapscott told the paper Thursday. "This guy is absolutely the best general manager in the international game."

Tapscott, along with Bobcats executive Chris Weiller, met with Gherardini in Paris for about four hours Wednesday. According to the report, Tapscott came away impressed and said that he and Gherardini agreed to speak again in the next few days.

Beyond Gherardini's clear contacts in international basketball, Tapscott told the paper that the fluent English speaker intrigues him because he believes the Italian executive can relate to Charlotte's challenge of competing with much larger NBA markets. Benetton is one of Europe's basketball powers, despite residing in a city of about 85,000 people.

"He has a unique eye for talent," Tapscott, who has known Gherardini for about 10 years, told the Observer. "He believes in working within a budget -- not just buying talent, but developing talent. Working strategically in the making of talent" through Benetton's two junior teams.

"That's going to be a major concern in the NBA" with players often entering the league in their teens.

According to the report, Tapscott has interviewed all five candidates for the job -- Gherardini, Bernie Bickerstaff (Charlotte Sting), Chris Wallace (Boston Celtics), Walt Perrin (Utah Jazz) and Gary Brokaw (formerly with the Orlando Magic) -- and he is expected to meet with Bobcats owner Bob Johnson next week to discuss the candidates. A hiring decision is not expected until at least another week beyond that.

Tapscott noted that Gherardini will be hard to lure away from Italy.

"He is very comfortable where is he with Treviso," Tapscott told the paper. "But if there's any chance of getting him into the NBA, then it's worth considering."