Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe on Wednesday asked the Jazz for permission to discuss the team's coaching vacancy with Johnson, a former NBA Coach of the Year who has been Jerry Sloan's top assistant for 17 seasons.
"He said they were interested, that's all," Johnson said of a "very brief" phone conversation with Vandeweghe, who fired Bzdelik on Tuesday after 2 1/2 seasons and the Nuggets in the midst of a six-game losing streak. "He wants to talk."
Johnson, who said Vandeweghe's call took him by surprise, isn't certain yet that he wants to be part of the conversation. Taking over a team in midseason is much more awkward than during the summer - he knows from experience, having assumed the Kansas City Kings' reins midway through the 1973-74 season - and it leaves the coach's current team in a difficult situation, "so maybe that makes you less inclined [to seek the job]. But we'll see," he said.
Vandeweghe put the 13-15 Nuggets in the hands of former Laker guard Michael Cooper, but called Cooper the "interim" coach and left his plans for the job unclear. Vandeweghe plans exploratory talks with a handful of candidates, according to a report in the Denver Post, and Johnson, Dallas assistant Del Harris, San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo and former NBA coach George Karl are expected to be among them - though the job could still end up Cooper's.
Johnson, who coached the Kings for seven seasons over two tenures, has long maintained that he has no desire to leave Utah's bench, but that he would consider a head coaching job "if it was a positive situation."
Is this it? Too early to say. "I've got to talk to my family, I'm talking to Jerry about it, I've got to talk to Kevin [O'Connor, Vandeweghe's counterpart with the Jazz] more about it," Johnson said.
Johnson, rated the NBA's top assistant coach in a survey of the league's general managers in October, interviewed with Vandeweghe in July 2002, so they are familiar with each other. Johnson withdrew from that search when it dragged on for several weeks. He said this process, should both sides go ahead, would be much shorter. "I'm going to make a decision very quickly as to whether I want to pursue it," Johnson said. "So that's where we are."