May 12, 2003 at 9:39 PM EST - Updated June 20 at 3:11 PM
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund will meet with former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy this week about Cleveland's coaching vacancy, a source said.
Van Gundy, who took New York to the playoffs six times, has had several phone conversations with Gund, but has yet to sit down with the owner, a league source said Monday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Van Gundy and former New Orleans coach Paul Silas are the leading candidates for the job, which would become more appealing if the team wins this Thursday's NBA draft lottery and gets the No. 1 pick -- projected to be high school star LeBron James.
Cleveland and the Denver Nuggets have an equal number of chances (225) in the drawing.
The Cavaliers met last week with Silas, fired by the Hornets after they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers.
The interview with Silas was conducted outside Cleveland, and Gund will likely travel to San Antonio to meet with Van Gundy, working the Western Conference finals as an analyst for TNT.
The meeting will take place before Thursday's draft lottery, the source said.
"I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about it," Van Gundy said when reached at his hotel. "If the team wants to, then fine. But I'd really rather not say anything."
Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson said he and Gund were pleased with their progress in the coaching search. Paxson hopes to have his new coach in place before the June 26 draft.
"Timing isn't as big an issue as getting the right coach," said Paxson, who reiterated the club will not hire a college coach and is pursuing only candidates "with a proven track record in the NBA."
Paxson has had preliminary talks with the 41-year-old Van Gundy, who went 248-172 with the Knicks before resigning 19 games into the 2001-02 season.
Paxson said Gund has interviewed Keith Smart, who coached the Cavs for the final 40 games after John Lucas was fired.
Smart, who Paxson described as "a good soldier," went 9-31 after taking over on an interim basis for Lucas. The Cavaliers want Smart to stay with the team even if he's not offered the head coaching job.
Paxson did not reveal who is on the club's "short list" of coaching candidates, but he did confirm Gund has not yet interviewed all of them.
The new coach will take over a team that went 17-65 last season and will get its fourth coach in four years.
Asked if he was confident the Cavs would get either Van Gundy or Silas, Paxson said: "We have a legitimate chance to get a quality coach."
Last week, Van Gundy said that while he enjoys being a TV commentator more than he expected, he'd like to get back into coaching if there was a good fit.
In an interview on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption," Van Gundy mentioned Cleveland as a possible place for his return and he appeared well-versed in the Cavaliers' current state, a result of his recent talks with Gund and Paxson.
Van Gundy, under contract with the Knicks until July 31, has told New Orleans he is not interested in its job.
Paxson denied reports he is interested in the GM job with Portland. The Trail Blazers recently fired Bob Whitsitt, and Paxson's name has been mentioned as his replacement.
"It's media driven," Paxson said. "I played there for nine years and worked there for five. Gordon has been very good to me. I have a job and I'm committed to it."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)