The Charlotte Hornets will have to reopen their search for a head coach after Kenny Atkinson has a change of heart and will no longer accept the job, by Adrian Wojnarowski. Atkinson will instead stay with the Golden State Warriors as a top assistant coach under Steve Kerr.
Atkinson, who has had several interviews with the Hornets in recent weeks, agreed to a four-year contract with the team to become their new head coach on June 18. The Hornets, who fired James Borrego after four seasons largely because of his inability to hold the team accountable on defense, hoped Atkinson could improve the team on that side of the ball.
At this point, it’s unclear why Atkinson decided to back down and stay with the Warriors. According to Wojnarowski, it happened after “other conversations”, but it’s rather vague. Atkinson and the Warriors, of course, won the title earlier this week after beating the Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals. It may be as simple as Atkinson wanting to stay in the Bay Area, where he can compete for titles, coaching some of the best players of this generation and working for a top organization.
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Either way, the Hornets will now have to go back to the drawing board, which isn’t ideal with the 2022 NBA Draft just days away, and free agency beginning soon after. Prior to selecting Atkinson, the Hornets had also brought in Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts, who were each considered finalists for the job. They could go back and choose between one of these two, but after sending Borrego away due to defensive issues, it would be strange to hire another attack-minded coach like D’Antoni or Stotts.
The Hornets finished 43-39 last season, finishing above .500 for the first time since the 2015-16 season. That record, however, was only enough for a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and the Hornets were destroyed by the Atlanta Hawks in the qualifying tournament. An embarrassing second consecutive loss in the play-in also played a part in Borrego’s departure.
With the likes of LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges (assuming he re-signs) and Terry Rozier, there’s plenty of young talent in this Hornets squad, which should make for an attractive job. If the Hornets want to expand the search beyond D’Antoni and Stotts, they won’t be short of candidates.