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Originally published Saturday, July 2, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics

Sonics plan to wait on coach

Sonics management is willing to stay patient as NBA teams with coaching vacancies woo the man who led Seattle to the Northwest Division...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sonics management is willing to stay patient as NBA teams with coaching vacancies woo the man who led Seattle to the Northwest Division title last season.

To that end, Nate McMillan has told Sonics president Wally Walker that he will visit with other teams in the next week. He is expected to visit Portland this weekend, if he hasn't already, and other likely suitors include the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons, should Larry Brown step down as coach.

"We understand why other teams have interest in him," Walker said in a phone interview yesterday. "But we still have high hopes that we'll get something done with him here."

The Sonics have offered McMillan a four-year, $18 million contract, which would place him among the highest-paid coaches in the league. But the Blazers are thought to be willing to offer double, and the Sonics have nine free agents and an uncertain financial future.

Walker said the Sonics have not placed a timetable on McMillan's decision. McMillan has said previously that he has not decided on a timetable, either.

The Sonics' plan, for now, is to let McMillan talk to other teams and reconvene "probably next week." That doesn't mean contract negotiations are on hold, though. Walker said he talked to McMillan's agent, Lonnie Cooper, yesterday morning. Cooper could not be reached.

"What I said to Nate was, 'Hey, you need to go and do what you need to do,' " Walker said. " 'Then, let's talk and see where everyone is. Then we'll try to establish a timetable.' At some point, though, everyone has to get on with their lives."

Should McMillan elect to stay in Seattle, Phoenix assistant coach Marc Iavaroni is considered a front-runner for the Blazers job. Terry Porter, who played in Portland and who recently was fired by Milwaukee, will likely also be considered.

Note

• Organizers of Hoops4Africa sent an e-mail yesterday saying that Sonics free-agent center Jerome James will travel with nine other NBA and WNBA players to Kenya for a week in September. They will talk to schoolchildren there about HIV/AIDS and visit orphanages.

The organization is run by Stephan Bekale, who played at Penn State and dreamed of playing in the NBA until his parents died of AIDS.

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com

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