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Casey could push Collins aside for Bulls job
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey, here discussing the NBA draft in 2006, is a strong candidates for the Bulls head coaching job, according to some reports.


Associated Press file

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Published: 6/5/2008 4:48 PM | Updated: 6/5/2008 10:25 PM

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With a strong second interview this week, former Minnesota coach Dwane Casey may have jumped ahead of Doug Collins for consideration to become next head coach of the Bulls.

Sources close to the situation suggested general manager John Paxson had not made up his mind on a new coach as of Thursday afternoon.

Sacramento assistant Chuck Person also had a second interview this week.

The Bulls have not shown much interest in meeting with former Detroit Pistons coach Flip Saunders, who was fired Tuesday. Saunders has coached in the conference finals four times in the past five years, losing all four series in six games.

Casey, meanwhile, posted a 53-69 record during 1½ seasons as head coach of the Timberwolves, though many believe he got a raw deal. Minnesota was 20-20 when Casey was fired Jan. 24, 2007. His replacement, Randy Wittman, has since gone 34-90.

People familiar with Casey describe him as a nice person who possesses excellent people skills and works well with young players.

One league insider believed Casey would have fared better as a head coach had he not gotten constant interference from Minnesota general manager Kevin McHale. He also was saddled with chronic underachievers such as Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, who joined the Timberwolves in a trade from Boston a few months into Casey's tenure.

Casey, 51, provided some insight into his coaching philosophy when he was introduced as the Timberwolves boss three years ago this month.

"Something that I've always tried to do as a coach, whether it was recruiting in college, whether it was coaching offense and defense in Seattle -- is to make players accountable," Casey said at his introductory news conference.

"That should be an easy thing to do, but sometimes it's a day-to-day task in practice. I think this is a league where you have to be consistent in what you say and how you say it, and players will know what's expected of them."

Casey's coaching career was nearly derailed by an infamous incident in 1988. When he worked as an assistant coach at Kentucky under Eddie Sutton, an Emery Express envelope addressed to the father of recruit Chris Mills broke open en route and was found to contain $1,000 in $50 bills.

Casey's name was on the return address and he took the fall for the incident, but he maintained his innocence and settled a $6.9 million lawsuit against Emery.

The so-called "Mills and Bills Affair" forced Casey to essentially spend five years in exile, coaching in Japan. He returned in 1995, joining George Karl's staff in Seattle. Casey later spent four years as a Sonics associate head coach under Nate McMillan.

"It's been a long time coming for me," Casey said when he was introduced as Minnesota's head coach. "I've come up through the trenches. I feel like I've paid my dues."

A native of Morganfield, Ky., a small town near the Illinois and Indiana border, Casey was a reserve guard on Kentucky's 1978 national championship team.

In other news, the Bulls began hosting players for predraft workouts this week. Only two players are being considered for the No. 1 pick in the June 26 draft, but the Bulls also have the No. 39 overall selection in the second round.

Among the players to visit Thursday was 6-foot-2 point guard Mike Taylor, who may be the first D-League player drafted into the NBA.

The Milwaukee native was kicked off the Iowa State team for academic reasons and spent last season with the D-League champion Idaho Stampede. He's described as a terrific athlete whose point-guard skills are a bit raw.