May 19, 2010

The Atlanta Hawks will interview Trail Blazers assistant coach Dean Demopolous for their coaching vacancy, two NBA sources told

Demopolous will join Dallas assistant Dwane Casey and ESPN analyst Avery Johnson as the primary candidates to replace Mike Woodson, who was fired after the Hawks were swept by the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

A source said the Hawks may still identify one or two other candidates, but they are not going to conduct a wide panel of interviews in the same fashion as the 76ers and New Orleans Hornets.

Hawks general manager Rick Sund appears to be going with familiarity; both Demopolous and Casey were on Nate McMillan's staff in Seattle when Sund was the Sonics' general manager. Casey was offered the job to replace Paul Westphal in 2000 but deferred to McMillan, who accepted the position and made Casey his associate head coach.

Demopolous is McMillan's lead assistant in Portland and, though little known, is well-regarded in NBA circles for his knowledge of the game.

It's still not clear if Sund is comfortable enough to hand over a team that needs direction and focus to an unproven commodity like Demopolous. Casey was head coach of the Timberwolves for a season and a half, while Johnson led the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006.

Casey has interviewed in New Orleans, while Johnson has interviewed in New Orleans and Philadelphia.

Another factor that may come into play is salary: The Hawks are a financially strapped team and reportedly do not want to play top dollar for a coach. Johnson is seeking at least $3 million, according to a source, while Casey and Demopolous may be willing to accept less at a time when many teams in the league are trying to get their costs in line.

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