The Phoenix Suns granted permission for coach Mike D'Antoni to talk to other teams, with the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks apparently the leading suitors.
General manager Steve Kerr confirmed Monday that D'Antoni can speak with other NBA teams about coaching vacancies but indicated he still wants to persuade the coach to stay with the Suns.
"As we continue to convey, we value Mike D'Antoni as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns and would like him to continue leading this basketball team," Kerr said in a statement issued by the team. "Because he has requested to speak to other teams about their head coaching vacancies, we have granted him permission."
Kerr said he would have no further comment "until this process further evolves."
D'Antoni, reached by telephone, declined to comment.
"I really can't say anything," he said.
SI.com's Jack McCallum, who spent an entire season with the Suns while writing a book on them, reported Monday that the Bulls general manager John Paxson and Knicks president Donnie Walsh were flying to Phoenix to interview D'Antoni. Knicks' spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz said the team is not commenting on its coaching search. Paxson had no comment.
Radio station KTAR in Phoenix first reported that D'Antoni was being allowed to speak to other teams.
The coach met Friday with Kerr and team owner Robert Sarver for two hours and there reportedly were more conversations over the weekend. Kerr has acknowledged some differences with D'Antoni but has repeatedly said he wants the coach to stay if the two sides can resolve the issues between them.
"It's been well documented we have some different ideas and different approaches," Kerr said the day after the season ended. "And what we have to do is talk and communicate and make sure we can get on the same page in terms of how this organization can get better, how this team can get better."
D'Antoni, who has two years worth $8.5 million remaining on his contract, has led the Suns to three Pacific Division titles and two trips to the Western Conference finals in his four full seasons as coach. He has compiled a 232-96 record, including 55-27 last season. But Phoenix has lost three times in the playoffs to San Antonio, including dropping a first-round series in five games to the Spurs this year.
The team had to adjust D'Antoni's full-tilt style to fit the arrival of Shaquille O'Neal, a process that was evolving at season's end. D'Antoni fully supported the trade that sent Shawn Marion to Miami for O'Neal because it was supposed to add interior toughness needed to get past the Spurs.
Instead, Phoenix blew one game, was soundly beaten at home and lost two more close ones against San Antonio. That left D'Antoni's situation in limbo and open to criticism about his short rotation, defensive philosophy and coaching staff.
Kerr, a close friend of Sarver and 15-year NBA veteran, was hired as general manager and vice president of basketball operations a year ago.
AP sports writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.