The Charlotte Hornets will have to re-open their head coaching search after Kenny Atkinson has changed his mind and will no longer take the job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Atkinson will instead remain with the Golden State Warriors as the top assistant coach under Steve Kerr.
Atkinson, who went through multiple interviews with the Hornets over the past few weeks, agreed to a four-year deal with the team to become their new head coach on June 18. The Hornets, who fired James Borrego after four seasons in large part because of his inability to hold the team accountable on defense, were hopeful that Atkinson could improve the team on that side of the ball.
At this point, it is unclear why Atkinson decided to reverse course and remain with the Warriors. Per Wojnarowski, it happened after “further conversations,” but that is rather vague. Atkinson and the Warriors, of course, won the title earlier this week after defeating 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, coach some of the best players of this generation and work for a top organization.
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In any case, the Hornets will now have to go back to the drawing board, which is not ideal with the 2022 NBA Draft just days away, and free agency starting shortly after that. Prior to deciding on 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 those two, but after firing Borrego because of defensive issues, it would be strange to hire another offensive-minded coach like D’Antoni or Stotts.
The Hornets finished 43-39 last season, finishing over .500 for the first time since the 2015-16 season. That record was only good enough for a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, though, and the Hornets were destroyed by the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament. A second-straight embarrassing loss in the play-in also played a role in Borrego’s departure.
With the likes of LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges (assuming he re-signs) and Terry Rozier, there is plenty of young talent on this Hornets team, which should make this an enticing job. If the Hornets want to expand the search beyond D’Antoni and Stotts, they will have no shortage of candidates.