NBA rumors: Nate McMillan 'front-runner' in Pistons coaching search, Kelvin Sampson 'won't have a chance'


Reports from the New York Daily News and Detroit Free Press suggest the Detroit Pistons are narrowing their search for a new head coach.

Step aside Zeljko Obradovic, we have a new leading contender for the Detroit Pistons job: Nate McMillan. Of course, McMillan was actually one of the first names mentioned when Lawrence Frank was fired, but he's stepped ahead of the pack, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News in a story posted Monday night:

Former Portland and Seattle coach Nate McMillan has emerged as the front-runner to replace the fired Lawrence Frank and become the new head coach of the Detroit Pistons, according to sources familiar with Detroit's plans.

The Pistons want to hire a proven head coach and are targeting McMillan, 48, who last coached the Blazers from 2005-06 until he was fired in the middle of the 2011-12 season.

McMillan has a career 478-452 (.514) record with the Trail Blazers and Sonics, albeit with a 14-20 record in the playoffs that includes just one foray into the second round. Highly respected around the league, McMillan was a Team USA assistant under Mike Krzyzewski for the 2006 FIBA World Championships, 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.

(One theory worth mentioning: McMillan may decide to wait until after the NBA's decision regarding Sacramento and Seattle. As Seattleite The Boourns posited in the Obradovic comments: "If the Kings move to Seattle, McMillan will be the head coach and there is a good chance that Phil Jackson will take on the GM role. Until then, McMillan ain’t gonna sign shit with Detroit. ")

As McMillan steps forward, though, another name falls off the list: Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson. From Vince Ellis in today's Detroit Free Press:

It appears that Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson won’t have a chance at the Pistons job. The same goes for Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo — if he isn’t retained.

It's very possible -- in fact, likely -- that Sampson was never a real candidate in the eyes of Joe Dumars, but I'd be curious to know why. As we detailed yesterday, he obviously knows how to work with young talent and comes highly recommended from the likes of Gregg Popovich. (The majority of Ellis' article is spent discussing former Pistons guard and current Suns head coach Lindsey Hunter as a candidate -- we'll have more on that in a bit which I discuss here.)

Now your thoughts.

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