In a casual, background conversation with myself and several reporters during the NBA Finals — days before it was announced he would be the new head coach in Charlotte — Kenny Atkinson was noticeably relaxed about the prospect of landing the Hornets job. He said he learned from working with the Nets and Lakers that what mattered most to him was working with people he liked in a positive environment. Atkinson said he had that, living in California and working on Steve Kerr’s staff with the Warriors, and if that was his fall back it was all good.
It turns out it was more than a fallback.
After earning a ring with the Warriors, Atkinson has changed his position and is not taking the Hornets job, choosing to stay in the Bay Area, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
ESPN Sources: Kenny Atkinson has decided he won’t become the Charlotte Hornets’ head coach and will remain with Golden State as top assistant. After being offered job during the NBA Finals, further conversations led Atkinson to believe it would be best to remain with Warriors.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2022
This is a shock in NBA circles — with only 30 positions on the planet, people don’t turn down NBA head coaching jobs often (Billy Donovan turned down the Magic 15 years ago, that may be the most recent example until today).
With Mike Brown leaving Kerr’s staff to be the head coach in Sacramento, Atkinson likely moves up to a lead 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 the Charlotte job. The Hornets could hire him or re-open the search and talk to Terry Stotts and others about the position. It’s rough timing for the Hornets a week before the NBA Draft, when they have two first-round picks — No. 13 and No. 15 — and are known to be shopping at least one of them for more veteran help.