Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson has told the Denver Nuggets he needs several more days to make a decision, but he continues to lean strongly toward accepting the NBA team's $6 million-plus offer to become its general manager and part owner, sources said last night.
Thompson needs the extra time "to finish cleaning things up" at Georgetown, said one source, and asked for the delay in a conversation Thursday night with Peter Bynoe, one of the Nuggets' three primary owners and the managing general partner.
Sources said Thompson, from whom the Nuggets had been expecting an answer by yesterday but have given him no deadlines, might not announce his decision on accepting the offer until early next week. Nuggets President Carl Scheer said he did not expect an answer "for a couple of days."
Thompson, who would receive an annual salary of $700,000 and as much as 4 percent ownership if he fulfills the entire five-year contract, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A reason for the delay, sources said, was Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo being out of town several days this week in his role as chairman of the selection committee to choose a new Big East Conference commissioner to replace Dave Gavitt, who joined the Boston Celtics as director of basketball operations. Michael Tranghese, Gavitt's assistant, was named to the post yesterday.
Rienzo was in Providence, R.I., for the announcement and was not expected to be back in Washington until late last night. He was unavailable for comment.
Sources said Thompson's major concerns remaining at Georgetown were the promotion of assistant coach Craig Esherick to succeed him and making sure there was a smooth transition.
A Georgetown source said the university remained hopeful of keeping Thompson, that he had not divulged his plans to the university and that high-level administrators have not discussed a successor to Thompson.
A source also said Thompson and his representative, David Falk, a senior partner in Arlington-based ProServ, have heard that the Nuggets might be sold and want to make sure Thompson's interests are protected.
Bob Wussler, president of Comsat International Video, which owns 62.5 percent of the Nuggets, said last night it is "absolutely 100 percent categorically not true" that the franchise is for sale.
"We have no interest in selling it or moving it," Wussler said in a telephone interview. "That's a commitment I made to the man who runs the league," NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Stern, who was in Washington yesterday visiting the White House with the NBA champion Detroit Pistons, was unavailable for comment.
A source said Thompson and Falk have heard the Nuggets' ownership has had sales discussions with the Maloof brothers, Gavin and Joe of Albuquerque, whose late father, George, once owned the NBA's Houston Rockets.
Wussler denied the Nuggets have had any discussions "directly or indirectly" with the Maloofs. Gavin Maloof said he and his brother are interested in getting back into the NBA, but have had no discussions with the Nuggets, and NBA General Counsel Gary Bettman said he doubted the report's "validity."
There also is talk Thompson is concerned about the Nuggets' financial stability. A source said the franchise is financially solid and a source close to the team said, "Thompson's money is protected and he is protected."
Sources said Comsat's investment in the team is $17 million, Bynoe and Bertram Lee's combined investment is $8 million and there are some limited partners in the first minority-run franchise in pro sports. It was bought seven months ago for $65 million.
In another development, reports were circulating in the NBA yesterday that New York Knicks General Manager Al Bianchi is about to be fired and might be replaced by Thompson. That report was fueled further because Falk was in New York on business yesterday.
A spokesman for ProServ said it did not involve Thompson and a Nuggets source denied the rumor.