Kelvin Sampson 'significant' candidate for Nets' coaching job

Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson has emerged as a significant candidate for the Brooklyn Nets' head-coaching job, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Nets fired coach Avery Johnson on Thursday, replacing him with P.J. Carlesimo on an interim basis.

Nets general manager Billy King is intrigued with Sampson, among other candidates, and is expected to eventually speak with him, sources said.

While King is impressed with Sampson, sources said ownership and the front office have yet to be convinced that it can give a win-now job to a first-time NBA head coach.

Sampson has elevated his stature as a head-coaching candidate as the top assistant for Kevin McHale in Houston. When McHale left the team early this season to tend to his ailing daughter, Sampson led the Rockets to a 7-6 record that triggered a spurt that has Houston at 16-12 and in sixth place in the Western Conference.

Houston officials praise Sampson's ability to connect with star players, something he cultivated spending several months with Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs and under McHale in Houston. McHale gives Sampson significant freedom on the offensive and defensive ends to implement the Rockets' style of play.

[Related: Avery Johnson got fired, but Deron Williams is sinking the Nets]

After compiling a 488-269 record as a college coach at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana, Sampson joined the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant in 2008 under Scott Skiles before moving onto Houston with McHale in 2011.

Sampson was a finalist for the Detroit Pistons head-coaching job that eventually went to Lawrence Frank.

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