By K.C. Johnson
CHICAGO -- At the time, the April 22 scene appeared benign, two friends taking in a basketball game to witness other friends.
When Kentucky coach John Calipari strolled down a United Center hallway with powerhouse agent Leon Rose following Game 3 of the Bulls-Cavaliers series, nobody paid much attention.
Calipari and Leon Rose are friends. Calipari coached Derrick Rose at Memphis. And the respected Leon Rose's prize client on a large roster of NBA players is LeBron James.
But with reports emerging that Calipari has interest in the Bulls' job and with James set to become the most coveted free agent to hit the market July 1, the conspiracy theorists are having a field day.
And the Bulls' coach search is, officially, just one day old.
Pay no mind to Calipari's denials based on semantics. "I'm not out searching for jobs." or "You won't hear about other colleges because I have the best job."
Several NBA sources confirmed Yahoo Sports' original report that Calipari has interest.
Whether it's reciprocal is unknown. General manager Gar Forman said he won't give updates, and team sources didn't shed any light on the matter.
Typically, Calipari would seem to represent the kind of slick candidate that turns off the Bulls. But this summer's free-agent class adds a unique dynamic to this coach search, one where Calipari's friendship with both Roses and James can't be ignored.
That's not to say Calipari, who hasn't coached in the NBA (72-112 in two-plus seasons with the Nets) since 1999, will be interviewed. It is to remind that Forman stressed not to rule out any candidates as he embarks on gathering information and background.
More realistic, the initial feedback the Bulls have received on at least Maurice Cheeks, Lawrence Frank and Kevin McHale has been favorable. Though the Bulls wouldn't confirm it, a logical assumption is that those three will receive interviews.
Dwane Casey, a finalist when the Bulls hired Vinny Del Negro, is another possible interviewee. There are no known scheduled interviews.
Frank is vacationing in Italy until the weekend. He has made it clear in the past he seeks to return to the NBA sidelines. The Nets fired him early in the 2009-10 season after an 0-16 start. He has a 225-241 career mark.