The Charlotte Hornets are hiring Kenny Atkinson to replace James Borrego as their head coach, according to Shams Charania. Borrego met with Hornets officials Wednesday—including owner Michael Jordan—and sealed the deal then. Former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was also considered a finalist for the Hornets’ job. Atkinson’s deal will last four years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
Atkinson, who came up in the league under Mike Budenholzer, made his name as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-2020. He took over a team with virtually no draft capital or incumbent talent and helped build them into a playoff team. So impressed by Brooklyn’s rebuild were Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving that they decided to join the Nets as free agents in 2019. That, however, proved to be Atkinson’s undoing, as he failed to forge a strong relationship with his new veterans and was ultimately fired midway through the 2019-20 season.
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Atkinson is viewed as one of the top talent developers in the NBA. His track record at virtually every stop supports that notion. In Brooklyn, he helped turn Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell into three of the best young guards in basketball. He then joined the Los Angeles Clippers as an assistant, and Terance Mann grew into one of the breakout players of the 2021 postseason under his watch. He spent this season with the Golden State Warriors, and not coincidentally, young players like Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and Gary Payton II have thrived with him in the building.
The Hornets have one of the NBA’s younger rosters, and now Atkinson will be tasked with helping it blossom into a playoff team. Borrego could not do so in large part due to the team’s defensive woes. Charlotte never had a high-end starting center during Borrego’s tenure, and finding one for Atkinson will be a priority moving forward. The Hornets have lost in the play-in round in back-to-back seasons. Atkinson is currently coaching in the Finals, and the Hornets are hoping he can bring some of that winning momentum with him to Charlotte when he takes over next season.