The Suns’ coaching search is winding to a close after Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer had his formal interview with general manager Steve Kerr on Tuesday in Phoenix.
The meeting wasn’t nearly as long as Detroit assistant Terry Porter’s second interview on Monday. Kerr was back home in San Diego in time to take in the Cubs-Padres game Tuesday night.
He said he doesn’t have any more interviews scheduled and there are no “surprise” candidates beyond the known finalists — Budenholzer, Porter, Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin and Houston assistant Elston Turner.
That means no consideration for Flip Saunders, who was fired by Detroit Tuesday, or Paul Silas, who told the Tribune Tuesday his only contact with Kerr was a brief phone call last month.
“The choices are pretty cut-and-dried now,” Kerr said.
Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw, who was eliminated as a candidate on Monday, told the Orange County Register Kerr told him “he wanted to have a coach that had experience in terms of being a head coach.”
That immediately fed into speculation that Porter — the only one of the four candidates who has been an NBA head coach — has become Phoenix’s clear-cut choice.
Kerr said Tuesday that Shaw misunderstood him, and that he said he wanted a coach with “more experience” than Shaw’s three seasons — something three of the four finalists possess.
Budenholzer has been coaching in the NBA for 12 years, Turner nine and Porter five (two as a head coach, three as an assistant). Corbin has less experience.
Still, strong signs continue to point favorably in Porter’s direction. Sources say his second interview on Monday was very strong. He is not expected to be considered for the Detroit job because of his strong ties to Saunders (ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that fellow assistant Michael Curry will get the job).
Porter spent two seasons as the head coach in Milwaukee (2003-05), where the Bucks were one of the top offensive teams in the league in his first season. But he also adds the experience of two seasons under Saunders with one of the league’s best defensive teams in Detroit.
Kerr is a close friend and former teammate of Porter’s in San Antonio — where the two lived near each other and had a close friendship.
BONUS SHOT: The Suns will begin individual workouts for possible 2008 draftees Thursday morning with LSU power forward Anthony Randolph and Syracuse small forward Donte Green visiting US Airways Center. The Suns have the 15th overall pick in the draft (Atlanta’s pick) but could be looking to move up into the back end of the lottery.