Detroit Pistons assistant coach Gar Heard appears to have moved to the top of the Washington Wizards' coaching list after an interview with team owner Abe Pollin and team president Susan O'Malley last Thursday in Chicago.

A source close to Heard said that after the interview, Heard was told to expect to hear from the team early this week, possibly by today. The team did not indicate its intentions but the source said Heard felt much better about his chances of landing his first full-time coaching job than he did in the days leading up to the interview.

Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld said he expected the team to fill its coaching vacancy this week. He declined to comment on any other developments.

The team's recent communication with Heard, at this point, appears to put the candidacy of former Pistons all-star Isiah Thomas in a less favorable position. Thomas, who days ago was believed to be a leading prospect, has had no contact with the Wizards since an interview with Pollin on June 3. A source close to the situation said that it is incorrect to rule out any candidate and that no final decision has been made.

Thomas could not be reached to comment.

A team source said Pollin and O'Malley did not go to Chicago intending to meet with Heard, who was in town for the NBA's pre-draft camp, but did so after taking care of an unrelated business venture. Former Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Notre Dame coach John MacLeod also met with Pollin, Unseld and O'Malley.

MacLeod is believed to be well liked by Wizards management and is in the hunt for the job last held by Jim Brovelli, who assumed coaching duties April 5 after Bernie Bickerstaff was fired.

Former George Washington University coach Mike Jarvis, currently at St. John's, and former NBA player Buck Williams also have been mentioned for the Wizards' job. Neither man has heard from the team in weeks.

Heard, 50, is an 11-year NBA veteran who has spent the past 11 years as an assistant coach in the league and is highly respected in coaching circles. He is viewed as a solid person who could command discipline and a commitment from players, several team officials from around the league said.

He served as the interim head coach of the Dallas Mavericks for 53 games, posting a 9-44 record in 1992-93 after Richie Adubato was fired.

Based on salaries recently awarded to assistant coaches that have graduated to head coaches, Heard likely would command between $1.5 and $2 million per year. Most coaching contracts range from three to four years.

Thomas likely would seek a three- or four-year deal between $3 million and $4 million per year, a source close to him said. Thomas, who won two NBA titles as a player with Detroit, has no coaching experience but was a top executive and minority owner with the Toronto Raptors from 1994 to '97.

He works as an NBA analyst for NBC-TV and is pursuing the purchase of the Continental Basketball Association.