With four coaching candidates involved in Sunday’s Game 7 between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference semifinals, the Cavaliers flew to Denver to talk to three assistant coaches and two more could be scheduled soon.
A league source confirmed a report by Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that the Cavs interviewed Jordi Fernandez of the Nuggets on Friday night, Steve Hetzel of the Orlando Magic on Saturday and were to speak with Wes Unseld Jr. of the Nuggets on Saturday night.
The Cavs were working to line up talks with the Trail Blazers’ Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool, the source said.
Going into this weekend, the Cavs had already met with six candidates, and the two members of Terry Stotts’ Trail Blazers staff would likely wrap up the first round of the Cavs’ search. Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery could have an impact as the Cavs, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns share a 14 percent chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick and the right to select Duke star Zion Williamson. The chance to develop Williamson could spark interest from the college ranks.
Fernandez, 36, coached the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ G League affiliate, from 2014-16 and twice took the team to the Eastern Conference finals. His Cavs ties go back to the 2009-10 season, when then-coach Mike Brown hired him as a player development coach.
Unseld, son of the Hall of Fame player, is in his fourth season with the Nuggets and has been the lead assistant to coach Michael Malone since 2016. Unseld has also coached for the Magic, the Golden State Warriors and the Washington Wizards, where he spent 13 seasons, starting as an intern and moving up to advance scout before he got into coaching.
Hetzel, a graduate of Michigan State, served as Cavs video coordinator before being named coach of the Charge during the 2013-14 season. Hetzel also worked in player development with the Detroit Pistons for four seasons, and spent four more as an assistant under Steve Clifford with the Charlotte Hornets before following Clifford to the Magic last season.
The Cavs had previously interviewed former Memphis Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff and assistants Jamahl Mosley of the Dallas Mavericks, Alex Jensen of the Utah Jazz, Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina of the San Antonio Spurs and Juwan Howard of the Miami Heat. Jensen coached the Charge from 2011-13, and Mosley was a Cavs assistant from 2010-14.
The Cavs and coach Larry Drew mutually parted ways on April 11.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.