ORLANDO – After an initial round of interviews that saw supposed leading candidates Brian Shaw and Michael Malone fail to advance, the Orlando Magic may actually be closer to naming a head coach than they are dealing franchise center Dwight Howard.

San Antonio Spurs assistant Jacque Vaughn, Philadelphia associate head coach Michael Curry and Phoenix player development coach Lindsey Hunter are the finalists to replace Stan Van Gundy. The trio has graduated to the interview stage with Magic President Alex Martins and the DeVos family after meeting with general manager Rob Hennigan.

Utah assistant Jeff Hornacek had an interview with Hennigan last Monday that was rumored to go very well, but the Salt Lake Tribune’s Steve Luhm reported that he was no longer involved.

It’s unlikely that any other candidates will be added, although it was deemed an upset by sources that Oklahoma City assistant Maurice Cheeks failed to land an interview and there was speculation he’d be in the mix late in the process.

According to sources, Vaughn is currently the favorite. Curry and Hunter, who each have ties to assistant GM Scott Perry through the Detroit Pistons, are legitimately in the mix.

Vaughn was part of the NBA champion Spurs when Hennigan was on staff in San Antonio in 2007 and is the youngest of the candidates, having only turned 37 in February.

He’s also the one with the strongest Magic ties, having started  a career-high 48 games for the 2002-03 Orlando squad, averaging 5.9 points and 2.9 assists. The California native had a celebrated prep and college career at the University of Kansas, known for his deft passing.

Curry is  the lone finalist with head coaching experience, putting in a volatile season with the Pistons in 2008-09. As was the case in his playing days, he’s known as a defensive mind.

Hunter actually played for Curry that season and has been involved with the Bulls since 2010.  Orlando hired Matt Lloyd to be an assistant GM as well in late June. He worked in Chicago for 13 years.

A decision is by no means imminent, but should be in by August.

 

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA