Mike Terry, Deseret News
Defensive coach Ron James, center, is one of three finalists for the open Utah Blaze head coaching job.

While most Americans were celebrating with barbecues, fireworks and time off during the holiday weekend, Utah Blaze president Jason Jones spent the Fourth of July traveling and working, trying to find a new head coach.

But now Jones says he's just about done with his search for the replacement for Danny White, who resigned last week after serving as the team's coach and general manager for the first three years of the Arena Football League team's existence.

"We're right at the tail end of the process," Jones said. "We're really down to just three people right now. Two of those three are a little stronger candidates than the third."

A press conference announcing the new coach is expected sometime this week.

One of the finalists, Jones confirmed, is Blaze defensive coordinator and director of player personnel Ron James. Jones would not say who the other two were. One candidate was flown into Salt Lake City on Monday evening for a face-to-face interview with Jones and Blaze ownership today.

"We got just north of 50 resumes and agent calls and inquiries into the job and from those we whittled it down," Jones said. "A quarter of those had legitimate experience and required a more thorough review and then we went down to about five on a short list and now we are down to three that stood out above the others in terms of what we are interested in."

James has been an AFL head coach before. He coached the Las Vegas Gladiators in 2005-06. The other two finalists also have AFL experience, according to Jones.

"It's important to us that the coaching candidate have significant experience in the AFL whether it be as a head coach or as an assistant," Jones said. "Our three finalists have that."

While White wore two hats for the Blaze as both the head coach and general manager, Jones says he is currently looking only for a new head coach. The general manager responsibilities will be divided up between a group of people.

The Blaze finished the 2008 season with a 6-10 regular season record after starting the year 0-9. They hosted a wild-card round playoff game, but lost to Colorado. White resigned two days later.

E-mail: lojo@desnews.com