Melvin Hunt should be the next head coach of the Denver Nuggets.

That’s right; give the man the job. As in, right now. Take that “interim” precursor and toss it in the trash.

If the last nine games haven’t been the best “interview” I’ve ever witnessed, I don’t know what would be. Hunt has been given an audition and he’s simply nailed it on every front. There’s no way any other potential candidate for the position could shine brighter.

When Brian Shaw was fired on March 3, seemingly out of the blue and in the midst of a slide that had “lottery pick” written all over it, Hunt simply slid one chair down the bench. At that moment, nobody viewed him as anything more than a placeholder, a patsy who would play out a miserable season until “real” interviews could be conducted. Well, nobody except Hunt.

Ask yourself this: If Hunt hasn’t proven he should be the next coach by now, who would you rather have? Who amongst the candidates associated with “next” could come to Denver as a sure thing? The names you know – Mike D’Antoni, Mark Jackson, Mike Malone, Scott Skiles – are all currently unemployed. The only sure thing about them is that their last employer didn’t want them anymore.

There are always intriguing names who have never held a head coaching spot in the NBA. Hot assistants who only need a chance, guys like Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg who have been outstanding at the college level or even former players – like Chauncey Billups – who would be welcome with open arms.

But those “types” are even less of a sure thing (see Brian Shaw, Rick Pitino and Derek Fisher). They may indeed be great head coaches one day, but it might not be with the Nuggets.

At the moment, Hunt is the surest thing that Denver has. What could possibly change that?

If Hunt were to post a losing record down the stretch, tarnishing the shine of his 6-3 record thus far, it wouldn’t mean a thing. In fact, that’s the plan – to lose. The Nuggets’ brass has clearly seen enough of Hunt’s audition, so much so they’ve actively pumped the brakes.

On Sunday, Hunt was presumably asked to rest Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur. Behind their new coach, the Nuggets went into New Orleans and beat a Pelicans team playing for its playoff life in double overtime. Last night, the message became even clearer: Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari were all “rested” against Memphis. Denver gave the playoff-bound Grizzlies all they wanted, nonetheless.

The Nuggets aren’t the Golden State Warriors, legitimately resting superstars who will partake in the gauntlet that is the NBA postseason. They’re not the Spurs, protesting the league’s rigorous travel schedule while protecting the legs of aging (and ageless) veterans who may or may not have one more push to give. The Nuggets are tanking. But Hunt isn’t. He’s playing for real and for a job, in Denver or somewhere else. If given the chance, he could severely and negatively impact the Nuggets lottery initiative.

The day that Shaw was canned, Denver possessed an 8.8 percent chance of landing the first pick in the NBA draft, and held a 29.2 percent chance of being in the top three. Thanks to Hunt’s handiwork, those percentages have significantly decreased to 2.8 percent and 10 percent.

And that’s why he should be given the job now. Let’s stop the charade and clearly define the path.

Hunt is more than happy to play along. He says the all the right things –“We’ve got to have good vision, long-term vision as well as short-term vision. But the long-term vision is definitely going to be considered,” Hunt told Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post when explaining why players were being rested – and then goes out and coaches his tail off anyway. After Sunday’s win, a more “heavy-handed” message was sent down when he was asked to sit his best three players. The Nuggets still went out and made it a game against Memphis, another playoff team. Hunt has produced an amazing record of 8-1 against the Las Vegas point spread.

Record aside, there’s other evidence that Hunt can coach. In the both overtimes and during the fourth quarter against the Pelicans, the Nuggets were five-for-five in converting “after timeout” opportunities. Directly following three timeouts in the fourth quarter, Hunt’s team made three baskets. In the first overtime, a timeout resulted in a three-pointer. In the second, a timeout was followed by a Gallinari trip to the free throw line. Tactical execution hasn’t exactly been Denver’s strong suit – not under Shaw, not under George Karl.

There are other reasons to appoint Hunt the next head coach. He’s a player’s coach – clearly – and the Nuggets need that after the Brian Shaw experiment. It doesn’t take the crew from TNT to recognize that Denver – right or wrong – instantly flipped a switch. Players are undoubtedly playing for Hunt. And in a players’ league, that shouldn’t be undervalued.

In addition to players playing, they’re also talking. Denver’s roster is anything but stable and now outsiders might feel better about coming to Denver. Would any free agent in the NBA have considered Denver if Shaw were still in charge?

And regardless of whether “we” think it’s important or not, Hunt – if hired – will be relatively inexpensive. For a franchise that doesn’t appear to have a clear-cut direction at the moment, hiring Hunt alongside the personnel that’s currently in Denver would seem to be a fairly low-risk investment.

Phil Jackson isn’t heading to Denver to coach the Nuggets. And if even if he was, he’s had a worse month than Melvin Hunt. Is the Nuggets current interim head coach the long-term answer? Only time will tell.

But at the moment, he’s the exact right man for the job.