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Originally published June 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 5, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Sonics

Sonics expected to offer GM job to Presti

The Sonics' six-week search for a general manager appears to be coming to an expected conclusion. San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Sonics' six-week search for a general manager appears to be coming to an expected conclusion.

San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager Sam Presti should receive an offer in the next day or so, and president Lenny Wilkens is staying in touch with prospective coaching candidates and keeping them abreast of the situation.

According to several NBA sources, Wilkens had informal conversations at the league's pre-draft camp in Orlando last week and told a handful of candidates that the Sonics intend to hire a GM this week and begin formal coaching interviews next week.

One team source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Seattle's short list includes former Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, former Minnesota coach Dwane Casey and Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo.

When reached for comment, Carlisle and Casey declined to speculate on the Sonics job while attempts to reach Carlesimo were unsuccessful.

Among the three, Carlisle is the most experienced, having guided the Pacers and Detroit to a combined 281-211 regular-season record and five playoff appearances in six seasons. His teams have won three Central Division championships and made two trips to the Eastern Conference finals.

Carlisle has a year remaining on his contract with Indiana and has the option of taking a front-office position with Indiana. The Pacers, however, hired coach Jim O'Brien last week and Carlisle is expected to agree on a buyout next week. It was believed that he would spend a year away from coaching and work the 2007-08 season as an analyst for ESPN, but Carlisle said his future is undecided.

Carlesimo has also spent six seasons as an NBA head coach — three in Portland and three in Golden State — where he compiled a 183-222 record. His greatest success was at Seton Hall where he led the Pirates to six NCAA tournament appearances in 12 years, including the 1989 championship game in Seattle.

His greatest failure was at Golden State, where he never won more than 21 games in a season and his NBA tenure was marred by his role as the victim in the 1997 choking incident involving Latrell Sprewell. After six seasons on the San Antonio bench and helping the Spurs to two NBA championships, he's one of the league's hottest assistants.

While Carlisle and Carlesimo are seeking their third attempt at coaching an NBA team, Casey is hoping to get a second chance in the league after being dumped midway during last season when Minnesota had a 20-20 record. The Timberwolves finished 32-49.

Casey, who was 53-69 in 1-½ seasons, has the least amount of coaching experience among three. He has been linked to an assistant job with the Boston Celtics, but those reports are speculation.

All three coaches have Northwest ties. Casey spent 11 seasons coaching in Seattle, seven years as an assistant and four as associate head coach. Carlisle served as a Sonics analyst during the 2000-01 season. He also spent three years as an assistant under Carlesimo in Portland.

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Even though they're the early favorites, other coaching candidates may emerge.

The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that Bulls assistant Jim Boylan had informal discussions with the Sonics on Friday. Los Angeles Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, who is a finalist in Sacramento, has reportedly received permission to talk to Seattle, and New York assistant Herb Williams was spotted chatting with Sonics president Lenny Wilkens at the camp.

"Just talking," Williams said. "Not about that [the Sonics job]. ... I basically said 'hi' and 'bye'. I've got too much respect for coach [Wilkens] to approach him about that job like this."

Williams was an assistant under Wilkens in New York.

Wilkens has repeatedly said that he intends to start the coaching search once he finds a GM. The race for the top spot in the Sonics front office appears to have narrowed between the 30-year-old Presti and Washington Wizards assistant GM Tommy Sheppard.

Sources said Sonics owner Clay Bennett, once a part owner of the Spurs and a fan of the franchise, called Spurs GM R.C. Buford and received permission to speak with Presti, who interviewed with the Sonics on Thursday.

Note

• As expected, the Sonics did not pick up the one-year option on contracts for assistant coaches Jack Sikma and Ralph Lewis , which ensures that their contracts will expire June 30. Each signed a two-year deal in 2005 that included a team-option for another year. Sikma may land in Milwaukee, Lewis may be headed to Charlotte, and assistant Gordon Chiesa is reportedly a candidate in Memphis.

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

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