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Originally published Sunday, July 10, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics

Weiss a top candidate for Sonics coaching job

The coaching search to replace Mr. Sonic, Nate McMillan, has begun with Mr. Original Sonic, Bob Weiss. The longtime Seattle assistant has...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The coaching search to replace Mr. Sonic, Nate McMillan, has begun with Mr. Original Sonic, Bob Weiss. The longtime Seattle assistant has emerged as a leading candidate to fill the vacancy.

General manager Rick Sund declined to comment specifically about Weiss, saying: "I want to wait until I get further along in the process before saying anything."

Sund would not reveal which candidates were at the top of an extensive list that he plans to whittle down to a handful of potential replacements before Tuesday.

However, during a radio interview yesterday afternoon, Weiss told KJR-AM that after 11 years as an assistant he's interested in becoming a head coach again and had spoken to the NBA team about filling the position created when McMillan left last week to coach the Portland Trail Blazers.

A team source confirmed that Sund and Weiss met for dinner Friday. While not a formal interview, the source said the meeting was more than a courtesy to an assistant who has been with the franchise since Nov. 17, 1994.

Sund also has spoken with Dean Demopoulos, a Sonics assistant the past four seasons, and Jack Sikma, who has spent two seasons on the coaching staff. Neither is considered a head-coaching candidate.

Demopoulos is headed to Minnesota, where he will become the lead assistant for Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey, a longtime Sonics coach under McMillan and others. Sikma will lead the Sonics' summer-league team, which begins games in Salt Lake City on Friday.

Weiss, 63, was not considered an early favorite among a list of candidates that includes Phoenix assistant Marc Iavaroni, former Minnesota coach Flip Saunders and former Cleveland coach Paul Silas. However, Weiss may have the most impressive resume.

He meets many of the traits that several Sonics players listed when management asked their input.

"He'd be my No. 1 vote," forward Danny Fortson said yesterday during a telephone interview. "He's well-deserving. He's paid his dues. I think a lot of us can relate to him. ... Now, it might not happen for him, but I'd be very comfortable with Bob Weiss as my coach."

Weiss, a member of the first Sonics team in the 1967-68 season, has strong ties to the franchise, has detailed knowledge of the players and favors the up-tempo offense the Sonics have adopted.

He has been a head coach with three teams — San Antonio, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Clippers — compiling a 210-288 record in six seasons. His first stint was with the Spurs in 1986 and his last position was in 1993 with the Clippers before joining the Sonics as an assistant.

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Weiss has playoff experience as a player and coach. He was a 6-foot-3 guard who played on nine playoff teams, including the Philadelphia 76ers team that won the NBA title in 1967.

He also led the Hawks to two playoff berths, but has a 2-12 postseason record.

One NBA source said McMillan extended an invitation to Weiss to join the Blazers staff.

"From what I've seen, he was very much involved in all of the thought process," Fortson said. "Put it this way: It would have been a big hole."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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