June 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

Vincent Goodwill

Third interview for Maurice Cheeks doesn't mean he's lock for Pistons' job

Maurice Cheeks is an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

It's early June, and while the Pistons don't yet have a coach, they still appear to be dedicated to the "process."

Current Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, who also coached the Portland Trailblazers and Philadelphia 76ers, has visited with Pistons owner Tom Gores in Los Angeles, which was first reported by ESPN and confirmed by The Detroit News.

His recent visit to Auburn Hills qualifies as the third interview for Cheeks but it isn't a direct indication of an endorsement from Pistons president Joe Dumars. Nate McMillan, former coach of the Trailblazers and Seattle Sonics, also met with Gores in Los Angeles earlier.

The timing of Cheeks' meeting was a function of his personal schedule.

Both McMillan and Cheeks have met with Dumars and the team three times since the coaching search began, and The Detroit News reported the two were generally considered the front-runners on the night of the NBA Draft Lottery.

McMillan and Cheeks are both former point guards and have been known to possess calm demeanors, which seems to fall in line with Dumars' personality.

Having NBA experience, especially for a young team searching for both stability in the head coaching chair and an ability to adjust to what should be an ever-changing roster between now and next February's trade deadline, appeals to Dumars' sensibilities.

The Pistons are one of a handful of teams with over $20 million in salary cap space this summer and the front office plans to facilitate trades and possibly dip into free agency while also addressing the status of guard Rodney Stuckey, who's entering the last year of his contract and coming off a underwhelming season. The Pistons seem ready to move on from the talented but inconsistent guard after six seasons.

Dumars addressed the media in a teleconference the night of the lottery, referenced the search as ongoing, and spoke about Gores hiring Phil Jackson as a consultant to the search.

Jackson could've plugged his former assistant Brian Shaw, a current assistant with the Indiana Pacers, who are one game away from upsetting the Miami Heat to advance to the NBA Finals.

Shaw's stock is already high around the league, and he turned down the Charlotte Bobcats' job last summer, presumably because he wanted to make his first job one with a contender.

He's been mentioned for jobs with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, two teams well in front of the Pistons in terms of developing into bona fide contenders. The Detroit News reported Shaw is holding out for the Clippers' job.

Either way, it can open the door to questions about what Gores wants in a coach because given his Hollywood ties, he could want the sexy hire to generate buzz.

The only Pistons coach arriving with fanfare was Larry Brown in 2003. Rick Carlisle was an unknown when he was hired in 2001 and although Flip Saunders had a reputation as an innovative offensive mind, he didn't bring a lot of pizzazz when he was hired to replace Brown in 2005.

The Pistons don't seem to be worried about either Cheeks or McMillan going for other jobs. Meeting with a candidate three times is usually enough for a franchise to make a decision on the direction it chooses to go in. But on Gores' watch, these things seem to take a little longer than folks around here are used to.

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com