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Sparano out of running for Raiders coach

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ALAMEDA, Calif. >> The Oakland Raiders have told interim coach Tony Sparano that he will not be getting the full-time job, clearing the way for the team to hire Jack Del Rio.

A person with knowledge of the search said Wednesday on condition of anonymity that Sparano has been told he is no longer a candidate for the job. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not revealing any details of the search.

Sparano and Del Rio were the two finalists for the job and the Raiders are now finalizing a deal with the former Denver defensive coordinator and Jacksonville head coach to get the job.

ESPN first reported that the Raiders had decided to hire Del Rio as their coach.

After meeting with owner Mark Davis in Denver during Denver’s bye week, Del Rio had his second interview in the Bay Area on Tuesday with Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Del Rio has been defensive coordinator in Denver for the past three seasons, helping the Broncos win three straight AFC West titles.

Denver ranked third in total defense and tied for 16th in scoring defense this past season. The Broncos were third in total defense and 10th in scoring defense in Del Rio’s three years with the team.

Before that, he was head coach in Jacksonville for nine seasons. Del Rio had a 68-71 regular-season record with the Jaguars and made the playoffs in 2005 and 2007, winning one playoff game in his second postseason trip. He was fired with five games remaining in the 2011 season.

He has extensive NFL experience, having played 12 seasons as a linebacker and coaching with New Orleans, Baltimore and Carolina before getting the head coaching job with the Jaguars.

Del Rio grew up in Hayward, just a short drive from the Coliseum. He went to games as a kid and even played a high school championship game at the Coliseum. His parents are still season-ticket holders.

Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, a teammate of Del Rio’s in football, basketball and baseball at Hayward High School, said he is thrilled Del Rio may get to go back and coach near his family.

Wakamatsu and Del Rio have stayed close through the years and Del Rio visited spring training when Wakamatsu managed the Seattle Mariners and came to San Francisco for the a World Series game in October.

“He’s one of the best ones out there,” Wakamatsu said. “I don’t think they could have made a better hire. That’s not just me as a friend talking. That’s knowing the intelligence and leadership skills he has. I’ve always had utmost respect for him as an athlete, coach and friend.”

If Del Rio is hired in Oakland, that also might facilitate the acquisition of unrestricted free agent nose tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, who has thrived under Del Rio’s tutelage in Jacksonville and Denver.

While Knighton has said repeatedly he wanted to stay in Denver, he recently told The Associated Press, “I want to be wherever Jack is. I’ll just leave it at that.”

The other candidates who interviewed for the job were former Raiders, Denver and Washington coach Mike Shanahan, Philadelphia offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, San Francisco tight ends coach Eric Mangini, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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