The Charlotte Bobcats have asked permission to interview assistant coaches Nate Tibbetts (Cleveland) and Kelvin Sampson (Houston) for their head-coaching job.
The Cavaliers confirmed Tuesday the Bobcats called about Tibbetts. The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday afternoon about Sampson’s candidacy.
Both are considered on the “A” list of NBA assistants. Tibbetts, a former NBA Development League coach, interviewed with the Bobcats last season before the team hired Mike Dunlap.
Sampson, a former college coach at Oklahoma and Indiana, grew up in North Carolina, starring for Pembroke High.
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Tibbetts, 35, was retained by the Cavaliers after they fired coach Byron Scott and replaced him with Mike Brown last week. Before joining Scott’s staff, Tibbetts coached Tulsa’s D-League franchise to back-to-back playoff appearances. He joined the Cavs in December 2011.
The Bobcats place a priority on player development and Tibbetts got high marks in that regard from Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. The day Irving was named rookie of the year last spring, he singled out Tibbetts for the constant attention and advice Tibbetts delivered.
“Coach Tibbetts would pull me over at the start of the season. I was always a shy guy, all I did was come to practice,” said Irving, a former Duke star. “I was here three hours early, getting my shots up because I was so nervous to come in and I wanted to make everything perfect.
“Coach Tibbetts told me what to do and what not to do every single day.”
Sampson, 57, coached the Sooners to the 2002 Final Four before leaving for Indiana. He resigned at Indiana in 2008, following some NCAA recruiting inquiries.
He moved on to become an assistant under Scott Skiles with the Milwaukee Bucks, then joined Kevin McHale’s staff, along with former Bobcats assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, in Houston.
Another potential name to keep in mind is Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clifford, a defensive specialist who previously worked for Jeff Van Gundy in Houston and Stan Van Gundy in Orlando.
A Lakers spokesman said Tuesday morning the Bobcats had not called for permission to interview Clifford. He came to the Lakers with since-fired coach Mike Brown, then became the top assistant to Mike D’Antoni this season.
The Bobcats are expected to interview numerous candidates, based on the search that resulted in Dunlap’s hiring 10 months ago. They brought in 10 coaches last spring.