Parcells told USA Today that "really, (Payton is) my friend. That's the first thing this is about.
"I feel an obligation, a responsibility to help him," he added about Payton, who worked as an assistant on Parcells' Dallas Cowboys staff from 2003 to 2005.
Parcells, Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis played golf together Tuesday, amid speculation that Parcells might step in for Payton on an interim basis. Parcells said after the golf outing that the Saints have yet to make an offer to him or officially approach him about taking the job.
"Sean is not the one doing the hiring," Parcells told ESPN on Wednesday. "That's up to Mickey Loomis and (Saints owner) Tom Benson. I'm just getting to know Loomis, which is one reason we played golf yesterday. I mean, we've obviously had discussions about doing this, but there are still too many hypotheticals to draw a conclusion right now."
NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who is friends with Parcells, predicted Wednesday that if returning to coach the Saints delays eligibility for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, Parcells will "stay on the golf course."
But Parcells, 70, told Newsday that he isn't very concerned about possible entry into the Hall, which requires candidates be out of the NFL for five years. He's a finalist for this year's class.
"That's not even a factor right now," he said. "I can't live my life worrying about something that might never happen. I have to be honest with myself. I don't know if that's going to happen or not. Why would you live your life worrying about something that's not going to happen? Don't assume that I don't think that's important to me, because it is. But I'm not making any personal decision based on that."
The NFL suspended Payton for the 2012 season as a result of his involvement in the "bounty" program that Gregg Williams ran while he was the Saints' defensive coordinator. Loomis also was suspended and will have to miss the first eight games of the season.