Bernie Bickerstaff, assistant coach of the Washington Bullets, recently met with Seattle SuperSonics General Manager Lenny Wilkens, who told him the team was close to choosing a coach, and sources around the NBA say Bickerstaff is the leading candidate to be that coach.
According to Bickerstaff, who said he met Wilkens last weekend in Chicago at the NBA's predraft camp for college players, a choice could be made by the end of the week.
"When we talked then, Lenny told me that they were going to try to get things done, perhaps as early as the middle of the week," Bickerstaff, a Bullets assistant for 12 seasons, said today from his home in Maryland.
Wilkens, who was fired as coach and promoted to general manager in April, was not available for comment.
"Everything that I hear sounds good and I've got some positive vibes, but I'm too scared to think about it," Bickerstaff said. "It wouldn't do any good anyway; all I can do is wait until whatever's going to happen happens."
The only other name still being mentioned for the job is Jimmy Rodgers, an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. Today, however, Rodgers said that he hasn't spoken to Wilkens.
"I read the papers like everyone else," Rodgers said. "I've heard that there's interest in me in Seattle, in Chicago, wherever. But right now my attitude is that I'm busy with the championship series. I wouldn't be surprised if, after this is over, I'd have some discussions, but right now I haven't talked with anyone from Seattle, not even to arrange to talk at a later date."
The speculation regarding Bickerstaff made for an interesting situation for the Bullets at the Chicago camp, with less give and take among Bickerstaff and Bullets Coach Gene Shue and General Manager Bob Ferry.
"It was a weird situation, that's for sure," Shue said today in a telephone interview.
"We had to be pretty careful with it. We were all there together but Bernie was sort of off by himself. But that's okay because I think it would be just terrific if he could get this job."
Bickerstaff, who has interviewed for four head coaching jobs during his time with Washington, wasn't about to disagree. "You don't want to wait for 12 years for a chance, but if there's any justification for having to, it would be something like this," he said.
Should he get the Seattle job, he would have the No. 4 pick in the June 18 draft. That choice would appear to be Detlef Schrempf, a 6-foot-9 forward from the University of Washington. Who the Bullets would select at the No. 12 position isn't as certain, according to Shue.
Shue appeared to back off from Ferry's earlier statement that the team might trade its first-round choice. "This is the time of year where everyone is talking and anything could happen," he said. "We're talking to teams and going over ideas, things like trying to move up in the draft, but I doubt if anything would happen like that, or trading away the pick."