Mad Ants president Jeff Potter hopes to have the team's new head coach in place next week.
Potter said he has a candidate targeted and is finalizing some procedural issues with the NBA and NBA Development League to gain approval of the hire. The new coach will succeed Duane Ticknor, who left to become an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“He has experience in the D-League and will be able to take up where Ticknor left off, which is important,” Potter said. “We had some good momentum from last season, and not only that, but I think we'll get some good core players back from that group last season. I'm excited about the options we have.”
Potter would not identify the candidate.
Ticknor led the Mad Ants to their first winning record and first playoff appearance in six D-League seasons a year ago.
Players such as Sadiel Rojas, Chris Porter, Anthony Harris and Tommy Smith could return, Potter said, as well as all-time leading scorer Ron Howard. Howard is in camp with the Indiana Pacers trying to make their regular-season roster.
The potential new coach has some common ground with Ticknor, Potter said.
“He has great knowledge of the game; I like his style of play,” Potter said. “I thought it was similar to some of the things Duane was doing last year, so there would be some continuity with guys we'll hopefully have back. I thought he has a good presence about him.”
Potter said the search for a coach has been challenging because of a deep pool of candidates.
However, he said the hiring of Ticknor was the most critical of the franchise's history, and Ticknor's success made it easier to bring in candidates to build upon the foundation.
“It's easier keeping momentum as opposed to getting momentum,” Potter said. “Getting momentum is hard. …Duane came in and changed the culture.”
Steve Gansey will return as the team's assistant coach, Potter said.
Fort Wayne remains one of three D-League teams without direct ownership by an NBA franchise. The others are Iowa and Bakersfield. As a result, the Mad Ants are available for use in assigning players from six NBA teams: Indiana, Detroit, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Orlando and Memphis.
Potter said forward Tony Mitchell, who won the D-League's rookie of the year award last year, will be playing in China this season.
“It's tough to lose him, but I know the type of money players get paid over there,” Potter said. “I don't begrudge him that for one second.”