Akey member of the Golden State Warriors‘ coaching staff looks to be one step closer to reclaiming the top spot on an NBA team’s bench. Per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson is a finalist for the open head-coaching job with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Joining Atkinson on the home stretch are former Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse and Adrian Griffin, Nurse’s lead assistant in Toronto. According to Woj, that trio “will be part of final conversations with Milwaukee leadership this week.”
Before becoming part of Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State in 2021, Atkinson spent parts of four seasons as the Brooklyn Nets’ play-caller from 2016 to 2020. During his time at the helm in Brooklyn, he helped build the club from the ground up alongside the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris.
During the 2018-19 campaign, he directed the team to a 42-40 mark and its first playoff berth in four years. However, he stepped down from his post the following year after the Nets’ acquisition of stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ushered in an organizational shift.
Warriors Assistant Kenny Atkinson Famously Spurned the Charlotte Hornets Last Summer
Given the Warriors’ incredible level of on-court success throughout their dynastic run, Kerr’s assistants have been popular targets for teams seeking new direction at the front of their benches. Last summer, it was associate head coach Mike Brown who was plucked by the Sacramento Kings.
However, Atkinson very nearly left the Bay for a head coaching job, too.
The 55-year-old had agreed to become the new head coach of the Charlotte Hornets during June’s NBA Finals. He backed out only days later, though, opting instead to return to his post with Kerr and the Dubs.
According to one league GM, that decision could become a factor in Atkinson’s pursuit of another head coaching position.
“The stuff with Charlotte last year might hurt him a bit, no one likes to see a team get strung along like that, then turned down very publicly. But you know, Billy Donovan did that with Orlando and he has had no problem getting and keeping jobs in the NBA,” the GM told Heavy Sports in December.
This much is certain — Atkinson probably couldn’t hope for a better gig than one with a Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks team that finished with the best record in the NBA during the regular season.
Steve Kerr Sounds Off on What Kept Atkinson With the Warriors
Clearly, Atkinson continues to have head-coaching ambitions, which has left many to wonder why he passed up the gig in Charlotte. As Kerr sees it, it was a simple matter of realizing the good thing he already had (for himself and his family).
“We’re in a great place, we got great players, we live in a beautiful part of the country, Kenny’s got two kids, you know teenagers who really wanted to stay, and I think it’s a really difficult thing to try to take a job in the middle of the Finals without really getting a chance to unwind,” Kerr said last summer, via NBC Sports Bay Area.
“I think over the course of the Finals, he just felt it, he felt like you know what this is not the best time for my family and me to leave. So I’m glad that Kenny trusted his gut, and hopefully Charlotte ends up with a great coach and everybody moves forward. We’re lucky to have him back, especially losing Mike Brown, I need Kenny, and I’m thrilled he’s back.”