Woodson, Frank atop Pistons' list

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ long-anticipated firing of Kurt Rambis this week doubles the number of coaching openings in the league, because the Detroit Pistons still haven’t hired a replacement for John Kuester yet.

NBA coaching sources say that the Pistons are inching closer to a decision, though.

Of the five known candidates for job, sources say that former Pistons assistant Mike Woodson is still the closest thing to a favorite, thanks largely to Woodson’s good working relationship with Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and the fact that Detroit would know exactly what it’s getting after Woodson’s work under Larry Brown during the Pistons’ 2004 title run.

Yet sources say that one reason Detroit’s search has dragged out so long is the strong impression that Lawrence Frank made on new Pistons owner Tom Gores and his advisers, among them former New York Knicks executive Dave Checketts.

Detroit’s choice, then, appears to be a tossup between the unattached Woodson and Frank, who remains part of Doc Rivers’ staff in Boston.

The other three known candidates to get interviews are Kelvin Sampson (about to leave Milwaukee to become Kevin McHale’s lead assistant in Houston), Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer (last seen on Rambis’ staff in Minnesota) and Checketts favorite Patrick Ewing (from Stan Van Gundy’s staff in Orlando). But sources have maintained throughout the process that Detroit’s preference is to hire a coach with previous head-coaching experience in the NBA after the recent unsuccessful stints for first-time head coaches Kuester and Michael Curry.

Detroit's search began June 5 when Kuester's dismissal, after a 57-107 record in two turmoil-filled seasons, was finally announced once the Pistons' drawn-out sale to California billionaire Gores was completed