The Washington Wizards apparently want former Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas to be their next head coach and team owner Abe Pollin recently became involved in talks with the former all-star, sources with knowledge of the situation said yesterday.
Thomas and Pollin met in Washington on Thursday morning to discuss the coaching job, two sources confirmed. It was not the first meeting between Thomas and the Wizards, sources said, but General Manager Wes Unseld had handled all previous interviews.
Sources close to Thomas said he is very interested in the Wizards' job. It is unclear if Thomas, 38, has been offered the position or if terms have been discussed.
Thomas, who led the Pistons to NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, was a minority owner and vice president-general manager of the Toronto Raptors from 1994 to '97 and has worked as a broadcaster for NBC. He also has been in negotiations to purchase the Continental Basketball Association.
It is believed that Thomas is being considered solely for the Wizards' coaching position. It is unknown if he would pursue ownership of the CBA is he became a head coach or if the NBA would allow him to be involved in both leagues.
Unseld declined to comment yesterday evening. Thomas did not return phone calls to his Detroit-based charity foundation or to NBC studios, where he worked as an analyst for last night's Western Conference finals game between the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs.
But during halftime of last night's NBA telecast, Thomas said, "I'm flattered and I'm honored that they would even consider me right now. We're just kind of dancing, but we haven't kissed yet."
If a deal cannot be reached with Thomas, Pistons assistant Gar Heard is believed to be Washington's next choice to replace Jim Brovelli, who took over the Wizards' coaching duties on an interim basis April 5 after Bernie Bickerstaff was fired.
Unseld said he would like to have a coach in place before the June 30 draft but there is a chance that the team could act as as soon as next week.
Though he never has coached, Thomas would be arguably the most recognizable person to lead the Wizards. Unseld, who coached Washington from 1987 to '94, like Thomas, is a Hall of Famer and was voted to the NBA's 50th anniversary all-time team.
Glenn "Doc" Rivers, who was on Washington's short list and had no coaching experience, signed a four-year deal yesterday worth about $8 million to coach the Orlando Magic. Indiana Pacers Coach Larry Bird, who entered the league two seasons ago with no coaching experience, earns roughly $4 million annually -- a figure Thomas would seem more likely to seek since he produced similar credentials as a player and is arguably as recognizable.
Should things materialize between Thomas and the Wizards, several league officials said Thomas's lead assistant coach likely would be former Bullets guard Darrell Walker, who was the Raptors' head coach when Thomas was in Toronto.
Orlando assistant Brendan Suhr, who is not expected to be retained by Rivers, also could be on Thomas's staff.