In a casual chat with myself and several reporters during the NBA Finals – days before it was announced that he would be the new head coach at Charlotte – Kenny Atkinson was visibly relaxed at the thought of land the Hornets job. He said he learned working with the Nets and Lakers that what mattered most to him was working with people he loved in a positive environment. Atkinson said he had that, living in California and working on Steve Kerr’s team with the Warriors, and if that was his downfall, he was fine.
Turns out it was more than a fallback.
After earning a ring with the Warriors, Atkinson switched positions and doesn’t take the Hornets job, opting to stay in the Bay Area, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.
ESPN Sources: Kenny Atkinson has decided he won’t become the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets and will stay with Golden State as a senior assistant. After being offered a job in the NBA Finals, further conversations led Atkinson to believe it would be best to stay with the Warriors.
— Adrien Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2022
It’s a shock in NBA circles – with only 30 positions on the planet, people don’t often turn down NBA head coaching jobs (Billy Donovan turned down the Magic 15 years ago, c is perhaps the most recent example so far).
With Mike Brown leaving Kerr’s staff to be the head coach in Sacramento, Atkinson likely moves up to a senior assistant position. Known as a player development specialist, Atkinson will work with Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman, Gary Payton II, Jordan Poole and the other young Warriors stars.
Mike D’Antoni was the other finalist for Charlotte’s job. The Hornets could hire him or reopen the search and talk to Terry Stotts and others about the job. It’s a tough time for the Hornets a week before the NBA Draft, as they have two first-round picks – No. 13 and No. 15 – and have been known to buy at least one of them. them for more veteran help.