Kenny Atkinson has emerged as the front-runner to become the next head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, according to The Athletic. Atkinson, who is currently an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, will soon meet with team officials, including owner Michael Jordan to discuss the position in further detail.
Shortly after the season ended, the Hornets fired James Borrego, who had been in charge since 2018. While the Hornets had improved during Borrego’s reign, and finished over .500 for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign, the team decided to go in a different direction due in part to blowout losses in the play-in tournament in consecutive seasons and an inability to hold young players accountable on defense, per Shams Charania. In the end, Jordan made the final push to fire Borrego.
There were also hints that LaMelo Ball, the team’s franchise player, wasn’t thrilled with life under Borrego.
“When they really put them keys in my hand, I feel like it’s gonna be a whole new situation,” Ball said in an interview with SLAM Magazine in March. “But until then, I’m gonna keep doing what I need to do, just try to get these wins,” says Melo. “I ain’t gonna lie, every game I feel like I can do more than what I’m doing. It’s just [about] reading the whole game and reading the whole situation. And everybody being on the same page. The consistency part. Once all that clears, I feel like we’ll be straight.”
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Whatever the exact reason, the Hornets are currently the only team without a head coach and will need to make a decision soon ahead of the draft and free agency. Other finalists for the job include Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts, though neither has secured a meeting with Jordan, per The Athletic. While that could still change, it’s hard to imagine either of them getting the job if defensive accountability is something the Hornets are looking for in their new coach.
Atkinson previously coached the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-2020. During that time he helped turn around a franchise that had lost its way following the ill-fated Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce era. Under Atkinson’s leadership, the Nets went from a 20-win team to a 42-win team, and the identity Atkinson built made the franchise a desirable destination once again.