The 76ers, being as careful and as judicious as possible in their search for a new coach, are preparing to offer second interviews to Doug Collins, Avery Johnson and possibly Sam Mitchell, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The Sixers, again according to the source, reached that decision during a meeting yesterday in the Wachovia Center sometime before the start of the Flyers-Montreal NHL playoff game.

Reached last night during the game, Comcast-Spectacor President Chief Operating Officer Peter Luukko said: "We want to get the process moving as quickly as possible."

Luukko declined to confirm who else was involved in the meeting to listen to recommendations from president/general manager Ed Stefanski.

Stefanski and guard Jrue Holiday are scheduled to represent the team at the NBA lottery tomorrow night in Secaucus, N.J.

Luukko also declined to offer a specific time frame, pointing out that none of the NBA teams with openings - the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets, New Jersey Nets and, most recently, Atlanta Hawks - have made a hire.

The source indicated that Collins, currently a TNT analyst, has emerged as the front-runner, but that management wants to be as thorough as possible in deciding on a successor to the fired Eddie Jordan. The source also mentioned that Portland Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams remains a wild-card possibility.

Collins, who has previously coached the Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, has not been active in the profession since 2003. A four-time All-Star guard, he spent his entire playing career with the Sixers. He was interested in the Sixers' coaching job last year, but was not granted an interview. He has indicated that if he returns to coaching, he would prefer it be with the 76ers.

In the course of their search, the Sixers have also met with Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Bill Laimbeer, Houston Rockets assistant Elston Turner and Phoenix Suns assistant Dan Majerle. Turner was the most recent candidate to be interviewed, having come to Philadelphia on Friday.

Former coach Jeff Van Gundy and former player Mark Jackson declined opportunities to interview for the job.

For more Sixers coverage, read the Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at

http://go.philly.com/sixerville.