Actually, the 49ers do have a timetable. Team owner/director John York already has indicated he would like to have his new coach in place before the Pro Bowl, which will be played on Feb. 2 in Hawaii. But Donahue said, after talking extensively with York on Monday night, "I think this is an evolving experience for John, too. I think he's evolving in this process as well and I think things are subject to change. He was pretty emphatic with me last night that he didn't want to be tied down to any timetables, or putting any artificial timetables in place, just take our time, find the best person for this job and move forward."
Donahue already has begun asking for permission from other NFL teams to talk with some of their assistants regarding the 49ers' head position - one of the most attractive coaching jobs at any level of football. Donahue said he expected to speak with New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress as soon as Tuesday. He also will interview Niners defensive coordinator Jim Mora for the position.
In all, Donahue said, there would "probably be around 6 to 8" coordinators from around the league that the Niners plan to interview.
But the search won't be limited to NFL coordinators. Donahue said the Niners' next coach will come from one of three categories.
"We have the NFL coordinator, we have some college head coaches that would make outstanding pro head coaches, and we have some pro head coaches who are currently out of contract," Donahue said. "I think there are successful people and people who could lead the organization in each of those groups. Right now, I'm spending most of my attention on the pro assistant coaches because those are the ones I'm probably not as familiar with as the other two categories I talked about. I'm more familiar with the college head coaches. I'm more familiar with the pro head coaches who are out of contract. I'm not as familiar with all the pro assistants who are possible candidates."
Donahue said he has not yet talked directly to anybody at the collegiate level, but "I am putting together a very short list of college head coaches that we will look at as an organization. We very well might seek permission to talk to a couple of them and we might not."
Donahue also outlined specific things he'll be looking for in his search for a new coach.
"One, the ability to lead and motivate our football team," Donahue said. "Two, to fit into the organizational structure and philosophy that's fundamental to Dr. York and how he wants the 49ers structured. Three, I'm looking for the best football coach that I can find. I think anybody we're talking to is qualified in all three of those areas. Those are three things that have been pretty consistent from day one as to what we need as far as I'm concerned."