The Los Angeles Lakers have received permission to interview Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson for their open head-coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Atkinson is the fifth candidate known to interview for the position, following Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, former Blazers coach Terry Stotts and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson.
Atkinson spent three and a half seasons coaching the Brooklyn Nets and was very successful in that position. He took over a team with very few draft picks, and fewer established veterans, and helped build them into the sort of franchise that could attract established stars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. That growth, in some ways, turned out to be Atkinson’s undoing. Suddenly merely making the playoffs with a young team was not enough, and he had to manage relationships with some of the NBA‘s best and most demanding players. He never managed to forge such a connection with Irving and Durant, but after spending the past several years as an assistant for teams with similar talent, he may be better equipped to do so this time around with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
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Atkinson is best known for his work as a developmental coach. He made his name under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, and has done some of the best developmental work in basketball over the past two seasons, specifically. He spent the 2020-21 campaign under Ty Lue with the Clippers, and there, he helped Terance Mann grow into one of the better young wings in the league. He moved on to Golden State this season, and sure enough, youngsters like Gary Payton II, Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga have thrived under his watch.
The last time the Lakers went looking for a head coach, they only offered Lue and Frank Vogel three-year deals. The idea was to hire a coach ready to win in the short term without making a commitment for the long haul. The Lakers still have James and Davis, and they therefore still have a chance to win right now. But the future is creeping up on this team quickly, and in interviewing candidates like Atkinson, Ham and Griffin, the Lakers seem to be seeking a candidate who fits both timelines.