The Charlotte Hornets are back to trying to find a head coach for next season after Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson changed his mind about accepting the position. Atkinson instead decided to remain as the top assistant under Warriors coach Steve Kerr, fresh off winning a championship this season.
With Atkinson remaining in the Bay Area, the Hornets are re-opening their search and eying Mike D’Antoni who was a finalist for the position before the job went to Atkinson. D’Antoni is meeting with Hornets team owner Michael Jordan, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, which was the final step Atkinson took before he was named head coach of the team.
D’Antoni would bring a similar coaching style to James Borrego, who the Hornets parted ways with after the season ended. They both favor smaller lineups and specialize in offense. D’Antoni is well respected around the league and has experienced varying levels of success over his coaching career. He coached both the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets to the Western Conference finals but has never reached the NBA Finals.
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Though the Hornets are said to have prioritized defense in their coaching search, D’Antoni may be the right veteran coach to help steer franchise star LaMelo Ball down the path of an MVP candidate. After all, D’Antoni did help turn James Harden and Steve Nash into MVPs, and he could very well do the same with Ball who already has Rookie of the Year and All-Star attached to his name.
On the defensive side of the ball, if the Hornets manage to get a defensive anchor in the frontcourt, D’Antoni could help create at least an average defense that isn’t giving up nearly 115 points a night. When he coached the Rockets to the West finals in 2018, Houston had the eighth-best defense in the league while owning the league’s best offense as well. While D’Antoni is known for his offensive innovation, his success with that Houston team shows how important having the right roster pieces is in being successful on both ends of the floor.
With the NBA Draft just two days away, and free agency starting a week after that, I imagine the Hornets will want to act quickly in finding a new head coach with important dates on the league calendar fast approaching.