Sources: Scott Skiles another candidate for Pelicans' coaching job

Scott Skiles has unexpectedly emerged as a candidate for the ‎New Orleans Pelicans' vacant coaching position, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Skiles -- widely reported to be the front-runner for the Orlando Magic's coaching vacancy -- has joined Golden State Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy on the list of coaches who have been interviewed by the Pelicans for the position.‎

Although the Magic have backed off their expected pursuit of Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to focus on trying to hire Skiles, sources say New Orleans has simultaneously added Skiles to its short list of top targets.

The Pelicans' desire to interview Thibodeau for the post is well known in NBA coaching circles, but neither New Orleans nor Orlando has been willing to offer any compensation to the Bulls, who are seeking a future draft pick for the right to let Thibodeau out of the final two years and nearly $9 million remaining on his contract.

ESPN.com reported earlier Wednesday that the Bulls, unable to generate any interest on the compensation front, are giving increasing consideration to simply firing Thibodeau to bring an end to their highly successful but oft-contentious partnership over the past five seasons.

Yet it remains to be seen whether the Bulls are prepared to take such a step before any of the league's three current openings in New Orleans, Orlando and Denver are filled.

Skiles was a popular player as a member of the Magic and is believed to have strong support from both Orlando ownership and Magic CEO Alex Martins.

Skiles also has a longtime admirer in the New Orleans organization in Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, who played for Skiles when he coached in Greece.

ESPN.com reported over the weekend that Van Gundy had joined Gentry as a leading candidate for the Pelicans and, more importantly, that Van Gundy himself was expressing interest in the position.

A popular TV figure since he last coached the Houston Rockets in the 2006-07 season, Van Gundy has resisted interest from several teams in recent years, professing his desire to stay in broadcasting. But Van Gundy's return to coaching has long been seen as inevitable, with the presence of rising star Anthony Davis as the centerpiece of an underrated New Orleans roster widely believed to be the strong lure that has him pursuing the post now.

Van Gundy has generally rebuffed all media inquiries about his interest in the New Orleans job, but he did acknowledge in a Wednesday radio interview on "The Dan Patrick Show" that he would want to coach Davis.

"There is no one who ever coached that wouldn't want to coach a great player with great character," Van Gundy said. "Anybody who that says, nah, I wouldn't want to coach [Davis] -- who is a top-five player and a great person -- I wouldn't believe that if someone said that."

The Pelicans' job opened May 12, when they fired Monty Williams after a 45-win season that led to a surprising playoff berth. New Orleans made the move with the intent to hire a more accomplished coach to help take Davis to the next level, and has targeted a highly creative coach offensively in Gentry as well as high-intensity candidates in Van Gundy, Skiles and Thibodeau.

ESPN.com reported last week that the chances of Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt keeping the job have improved since the end of the regular season. Sources say former Suns, Knicks and Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni -- whose NBA head-coaching debut came with Denver in the work stoppage-shortened 50-game 1998-99 season -- also remains on the Nuggets' radar.

Former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, meanwhile, has passed on the opportunity to interview for any of the league's three vacancies, amid a strong belief in coaching circles that Brooks is prepared to sit out a year to focus on family and try his hand at TV work.