Kenny Atkinson will not be the Charlotte Hornets’ next coach, opting instead to stay with NBA champion Golden State Warriors, according to reports.
ESPN reported that after accepting Charlotte’s job offer in the NBA Finals last week, further conversations with the organization led Atkinson to renege on the deal he had in principle to sign a four-year contract with the franchise.
The contract was never signed, however, and Atkinson will remain with Golden State as an assistant coach instead.
Atkinson’s decision means Charlotte joins Utah as the only two NBA teams without coaches in place.
The Hornets have three picks, including two in the top 15, from Thursday’s draft and Charlotte may have to make the No. 13, No. 15 and No. 45 picks without a coach.
The Golden State players held exit talks on Saturday ahead of Monday’s championship parade and were thrilled that Atkinson had decided to help the Warriors try to chase another championship after Thursday’s deciding game in Boston.
“It means a lot,” said striker Andrew Wiggins. “He gave up a head coaching job to come back.”
Atkinson was 118-190 in over three seasons as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets when that franchise was being rebuilt. He has spent the past two seasons as an assistant, first for the Los Angeles Clippers and now for the Warriors.
“We knew Kenny did an amazing job when he was in Brooklyn. We don’t talk about that enough,” Golden State guard Jordan Poole said. “For him to be able to bring all the knowledge and the insight and the positive emotion and the militaristic will that he has, to add that to a winning culture already is amazing. And we got a ring because of that, he’s obviously extremely invested and believe we can do it again. You want guys like that and people like that.
Another Golden State assistant – Mike Brown – is leaving to become a head coach in Sacramento.
The Hornets had spoken to several other candidates in their search to replace James Borrego, who was fired in April at the end of his fourth season.
Darvin Ham, Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts were known to be on Charlotte’s radar. Ham was hired as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s unclear if D’Antoni or Stotts would still be interested in Charlotte, or if the Hornets intend to approach them again.