Kenny Atkinson reverses course on Hornets job, with stay with Warriors


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Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson will return to Steve Kerr’s bench after reconsidering his decision to become the next head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The Hornets agreed this month to make Atkinson their next coach. However, the Hornets never officially announced Atkinson’s hiring during the NBA Finals, and Kerr declined to comment on the hiring until it was made official. In a rare move in NBA coaching circles, Atkinson then reconsidered his decision as the Warriors claimed their fourth title in eight years. ESPN first reported Atkinson’s reversal Saturday.

The Hornets, who also interviewed longtime coach Mike D’Antoni in recent weeks, must reopen their search for James Borrego’s successor.

Charlotte would have been the second head coaching stint for the 55-year-old Atkinson, who was set to inherit a young roster headlined by all-star guard LaMelo Ball. Atkinson previously coached the Brooklyn Nets for four seasons, compiling a 118-190 record from 2016 to 2020.

Atkinson’s decision comes less than a week before the NBA draft. Charlotte holds the No. 13 pick.

During a 13-year NBA career that has included assistant coaching stops with the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers and Warriors, Atkinson has cultivated a reputation as a player development expert with a hard-charging personality and a knack for culture building. In Brooklyn, he inherited a team that won 21 games during the 2015-16 season and delivered a playoff berth in 2019 with gradual improvement on the defensive end.

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The Nets parted ways with Atkinson in 2020 as the high-profile free agency additions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving began a new era for the franchise. Atkinson was replaced by Steve Nash, who has been more deferential to Brooklyn’s stars. Charlotte fired Borrego in April after four seasons.

Borrego, who twice guided the Hornets to the East’s play-in tournament, delivered a 43-win season this year but occasionally clashed with his young players. Hornets General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in May that Borrego was fired because the franchise wanted to “seek out another voice” as owner Michael Jordan chases the organization’s first playoff appearance since 2016.

Atkinson, who joined the Warriors in July, would have been the team’s second assistant to land a top job during Golden State’s title run. The Sacramento Kings last month hired Mike Brown, who spent six seasons with the Warriors.

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