YAKIMA, Wash. — Call it the calm after the storm.
A volatile finish to the Yakima SunKings season in the early days of May left both the club and its former coach in a state of flux.
Yet in the ensuing two-plus months, nothing on the surface seems to have changed with no official announcements on filling those voids. But there has been plenty of behind-the-scenes activity, particularly with the SunKings, which could finally provide some answers in the not-too-distant future.
Reached Wednesday, SunKings owner Jaime Camos declined to go into specifics about his search for a new general manager and head coach, but did say that he was getting closer to decisions on both openings.
As for Paul Woolpert, who held both positions before being fired on May 1, just ahead of Yakima’s deciding game in The Basketball League championship series on May 3, he said any decision on a coaching job is “a month or two” away, although he cited multiple options in play — all currently overseas.
“I haven’t nailed anything down … I’m in exploration mode,” said Woolpert, who mentioned Mexico, Qatar, Bahrain and Australia as potential landing spots and did not rule out something in the NBA or its G-League, although there is nothing on the table at this time.
Of course, with this being the heart of the offseason, there remains no real rush to action, although the time to begin preparations for next season is also fast approaching.
That’s particularly true for the new SunKings general manager, whose work selling sponsorships and tickets while repairing any public relations damage from the Woolpert fallout will begin as soon as they come on board — which could be soon.
That is the position the SunKings are apparently closest to filling, with Campos saying that he “already pretty much has that settled,” declining to elaborate other than to say he’s identified a leading candidate for the job.
As for a new coach, the owner said that right now, there are three primary candidates, again avoiding details on their identities.
About the only thing Campos has said is that the front office structure will be different from last season, when Woolpert held both the GM and head coaching posts and enjoyed full control over player decisions.
“I’m going to run things a little different this time,” Campos said. “The coach won’t be the GM (as well).”
Things might start to take shape as early as this week, as Campos is scheduled to meet with TBL president David Magley, who will also be visiting potential owners in Salem, Ore., and Bellevue before heading to Yakima.
Reached Wednesday evening at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Magley said he and Campos have spoken about a half dozen times in the past two months and believes that Campos’ methodical pace is simply the result of the owner being thorough and diligent with the hiring process.
“Jaime wants to make sure he hires the right guy,” Magley said of the coaching search. “It’s one of the better jobs outside of an NBA product. You’ve got an owner who’s committed, a team that takes care of their players, and a great fan base in a great market.”
As for the fallout between Campos and Woolpert, Magley expressed tremendous respect for both men and said he’s sorry it didn’t work out but added that it wasn’t his place to intervene.
“I stayed out of it because it’s not really the league’s issue. It’s between the coaches and owners,” he said, adding that he was aware of certain things going on behind the scenes but did not elaborate. “You’ve got an incredible businessman who’s driven and a very successful coach. Both have very strong personalities and are driven. When it’s going right, it’s a beautiful thing.”
But it was anything but that at the end when Campos fired the popular Woolpert.
As a result of that move, Magley understands that Campos and his new staff will face challenges moving forward but expressed confidence in their ability to successfully navigate those waters.
“It’s all about not looking backward and figuring out how to move forward,” he said. “He’s got to renew the energy but I believe he’s as committed as ever. He’s got to focus on doing things the right way in the community, building on the relationships they already have and building a good program.
“As long as they put another good product on the floor, they’ll be successful again.”
As for Woolpert, he said he’s ready for the next phase in his coaching career.
“It’s been two full months (since the firing) and it’s been nice to be able to spend time with my wife (Nicole),” he said. “Now it’s time to find out where I’ll be next.”
While the coach has multiple possibilities, one place he does not expect to land is back in the TBL.
“No,” he said flatly when asked if he’d consider joining one of the league’s other teams. “At this time, I’m not looking in that direction. Obviously, it left a bad taste in my mouth.”