Potential candidates, according to league sources, include San Antonio vice president of operations Danny Ferry; Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey; Jeff Bower, who was a general manager for the New Orleans Hornets; Oklahoma City assistant GM Troy Weaver; Atlanta GM Rick Sund, whose contract expires at the end of June; and Milwaukee GM John Hammond, who has a year remaining on his deal. Hammond, who was denied permission to talk to Portland last month, was an assistant coach for Doug Collins with Detroit.
The Sixers' interview group consists of owner Josh Harris, CEO Adam Aron, Collins and Thorn, a source said.
Thorn, 71, took a similar role in identifying his successor in New Jersey when the Nets hired Billy King as general manager in 2010.
Thorn is entering the final year of his 3-year contract as president, but the deal he signed in August 2010 with then-chairman Ed Snider included a provision for Thorn to become a part-time consultant for 5 years after his contract expired.
A team source said that the process of replacing Thorn could take up to a year, which is why the search has started now. If "Mr. Right" were to come along in the near future, the Sixers would make the hire and Thorn would assume his part-time role immediately. The search did not start until after the Sixers' run into the second round of the playoffs had ended, the source said.
The source indicated that the organization is in no way trying to remove Thorn from his position; rather, it is trying to start a process that could take a while to complete, maybe even until Thorn's contract has expired.
One has to wonder, though, as the relationship between Collins and Thorn has appeared to be cool at times and downright cold at others. Both are extremely competitive individuals, and the butting of heads certainly had to be expected. But the source denied there was anything behind this move other than getting a head start on what might be a long process.
When Thorn came to the Sixers, he was reunited with GM Ed Stefanski, whom he worked with in New Jersey in a similar arrangement. That lasted for one season. In one of their first acts last November, the new ownership group relieved Stefanski of his duties and centralized basketball operations with Thorn and Collins.
During his almost two seasons with the team, Thorn hasn't made a lot of moves because he was strapped with tough contracts or otherwise. Sources said there was a deal the Sixers could have pulled off last summer that would have sent forward Andre Iguodala elsewhere, but the new ownership group vetoed any move.
This season, Thorn dealt forward Marreese Speights to the Memphis Grizzlies for a pair of second-round picks and later acquired swingman Sam Young from Memphis in exchange for the rights to guard Ricky Sanchez. Before the season began, Thorn helped ink forward Thaddeus Young to a 5-year deal, a top offseason priority for the team.
Whether Thorn is here for the upcoming draft (June 28), the beginning of signing free agents (July 11) or to oversee any trades is yet to be seen. But it is certainly going to be a busy time for the organization as many decisions must be made. Top among those will be whether to amnesty forward Elton Brand, who is scheduled to make $18.16 million next season. If the team does amnesty Brand, dropping him from the roster, that money would come off the team's salary cap.
Also, guard Lou Williams most likely will opt out of the final year on his contract in hopes of landing a long-term deal. He is scheduled to make $6.4 million. "Opting out doesn't necessarily mean you're leaving. It's getting out of one contract to begin a new one," Williams tweeted Monday.
Starting center Spencer Hawes is an unrestricted free agent. He made more than $4 million last season.
A league source said that both players are wanted by teams throughout the league and that both would probably garner salaries averaging about $7 million a year.
Lavoy Allen, who will be entering his second season, is also an unrestricted free agent and a player whom the team wants to keep. It could cost the Sixers a couple of million dollars a year in order to keep the Temple product. Almost certainly not returning to the team will be Tony Battie, Craig Brackins, Jodie Meeks and Sam Young.
For now, Thorn remains "in the saddle," the team source said, overseeing all that is happening now and preparing for the busy weeks ahead. That could change very quickly, or remain status quo until his contract is up. But the process to finding his successor has begun.
Contact Bob Cooney at email@example.com or on Twitter @BobCooney76. Read the Daily News' Sixers blog at www.philly.com/Sixerville