Kings coachin 30 days

May 30, 2006 5:55 AM

The Sacramento Kings are searching for a new head coach. My advice: Check into the Palms, hang out at the Ghost Bar and hope George Maloof notices you.

With the NBA Draft set for June 27 in New York, it’s essential that a final decision is made soon. Maloof said as much in a very colorful chat I had with him over the weekend.

George returned my call, as he always does, no matter the issue. Always a stand-up guy, it deserves to be stated in print.

The short list, according to the latest Associated Press story includes two former Golden State coaches Eric Musselman and P.J. Carlesimo, NY Knicks coach Larry Brown, current Warriors assistant Mario Elie and John Whisenant — family friend of the Maloofs and past coach of the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs.

The Kings fired Rick Adelman after eight seasons, 395 wins, two Pacific Division titles and a Game 7 loss in the 2002 Western Conference finals.

If the choices really are among Musselman, Elie and the rest, I think Mario is the right man. Elie has that deep voice, a baritone Avery Johnson. He commands attention and was part of the Houston Rockets NBA title teams.

If up to me, I would hire Marc Iavaroni, now an assistant with the Phoenix Suns. It’s always chic to pick someone from a hot franchise. Iavaroni played college ball at Virginia, so he’s smart. Kings GM Geoff Petrie is a Princeton grad. If you noticed the other day in the Suns-Mavs game, Iavaroni had a basketball slammed off his dome and he didn’t budge.

That’s the kind of toughness Sacramento has lacked for years.

Iavaroni has been considered for head coaching positions with Portland and Seattle, so this isn’t out of the blue. People here know him from his pro playing days with the Philadelphia 76ers and as coach of the Phoenix entry in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Maloof listened and expertly began interviewing me, throwing names out as possible selections. Many tongue-in cheek (like he’s going to listen to me!), but who knows? He probes well.

"Steve Kerr" — I thought that was a very interesting choice. He’s young, articulate, smart, likeable and can still hit the 3s.

"Kenny Smith" — If TNT would part with him, a great idea.

"Rick Pitino" — I can’t imagine him leaving Louisville.

"John Wooden" — Not in his 90s. Definitely as a consultant.

"Paris Hilton" — Doesn’t quite measure up to Pam Anderson.

"Bill Laimbeer" — I’d hire Pat Summitt before Laimbeer!

"I just can’t comment on what we’ll do," Maloof finally said. "I think it would be safe to say our short list is down to five and that we will come up with a decision prior to the Draft."

Whoever it is, expect the red carpet treatment at the Palms.

Spreads Go THERMAL

Heat or Suns, the spread is all about the BTUs.

Miami is 7-2 against the line in the last nine starts, including 2-0 vs. Detroit. Phoenix is 7-3 ATS and 3-0 in its series with Dallas.

This week, I’ll give the edge to Miami and Dallas. The Mavs are deeper and less impacted by mounting injuries.

In Miami, Shaq continues to excel and Alonzo Mourning is putting up valuable minutes, With Detroit, it’s all about motivation. Clearly there are solid questions about whether Flip Saunders can match what Larry Brown did for Motown. Phoenix has no quit, but I like what Avery Johnson brings to the table for Dallas. He may be the series MVP for adjustments.

The Maloofs should give Marc a call. Some fresh blood never hurt and that’s appears to be what the Kings want. If not, Adelman would still have a job.

The real playoff story

Detroit vs Miami in the East is about motivation. The Pistons have been in a funk for several weeks now and nearly gave an 18-point lead away in final two minutes of Game 2. Even Pat Riley chucked when hearing that Miami scored 17 points in the final 90 seconds.

In the West, it’s which team has the ball last that wins. Dallas-San Antonio was a tremendous series, as was Phoenix against both LA teams. You just can’t kill the Suns off, and as Barkley says "Steve Nash is one bad white boy."

The spread numbers favor Miami. The Heat are 7-2 against the number in their last nine starts, including 2-0 vs. the Pistons. Dallas and Phoenix are each 6-3 ATS in the past nine games with the Suns covering the first two games in the West semifinals.

All four teams are capable of winning the NBA title. Geez, when have we ever been able to say that? I’m just sitting back and finally enjoying the playoffs, which in the past were mostly hype and boring.

This week, I’ll give the edge to Miami and Dallas, the latter appearing to be a bit deeper and less impacted by mounting injuries. If Shaq continues to excel and Alonzo Mourning puts up valuable minutes, Riley may indeed cap a stellar coaching career with one more NBA championship.