AP source: Thibodeau is Hornets’ top choice

Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau is the leading candidate

to fill the New Orleans Hornets’ coaching vacancy and the team

could offer him the job this week, according to a person familiar

with the process.

After interviewing eight candidates, the Hornets began working

on a contract for Thibodeau, the person told The Associated Press,

speaking on condition of anonymity because the offer has not yet

been made.

The Hornets also interviewed Portland assistant Monty Williams,

former Dallas coach Avery Johnson, Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey,

former NBA coach Mike Fratello, former New Jersey coach Lawrence

Frank, former NBA player Mark Jackson and Utah assistant Tyrone

Corbin.

In nearly two decades as an assistant coach in the NBA,

Thibodeau has developed a strong reputation as a defensive

strategist, and was part of the Celtics’ staff when they last won

an NBA title in 2008.

The Hornets struggled defensively last season, allowing 102.7

points per game, which ranked 20th in the league.

After firing Byron Scott nine games into this season, the

Hornets missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

General manager Jeff Bower coached the club from the time Scott was

fired until the end of the regular season before going back to the

front office full-time and leading the coaching search along with

team president Hugh Weber.

Thibodeau began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with

Minnesota in 1989. He later worked as an advance scout with the

Seattle SuperSonics before going back to coaching as an assistant

with San Antonio, Philadelphia, New York, Houston and now

Boston.

His stock has continued to rise with the Celtics’ performance in

this year’s playoffs.

Yahoo! first reported the Hornets’ decision to make Thibodeau

their top coaching candidate on Monday night.

The Celtics granted the Hornets permission to interview

Thibodeau before Boston had eliminated Cleveland earlier this

month.

Thibodeau could wind up with his choice of jobs. Several other

NBA teams are looking for a new coach, including Atlanta, Chicago,

Cleveland, New Jersey and the Los Angeles Clippers.