West Exec Sounds Off on Warriors Assistants Leaving for Head Coaching Jobs

Kenny Atkinson Steve Kerr Warriors

Getty Golden State Warriors coaches Steve Kerr and Kenny Atkinson react during a game against the Phoenix Suns.

There’s no sugar-coating the situation — life in the Golden State Warriors‘ corner of the basketball globe is decidedly less awesome than it was even a few, short months ago. After entering the 2022-23 campaign as defending champions and threats to repeat, the Dubs suddenly find themselves sitting near the play-in range of the Western Conference standings.

If that isn’t weird or wild enough for you, the perpetually-maligned team 90 miles up I-80 somehow has a winning record and is looking more and more like it could end a playoff drought that has spanned the better part of two decades at this point.

That team — the Sacramento Kings — probably owes Warriors coach Steve Kerr a thank-you note or a fruit basket for playing a part in the turnaround. After all, Kerr’s former No. 2, Mike Brown, is the man leading the charge in the capital city, and Golden State’s recent success definitely played a part in him getting the job there.

Of course, this is hardly a new phenomenon for Kerr and Co. Other teams have been poaching from the Warriors staff for years, which begs the following question: who’s next?

Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney spoke with a West exec recently in an attempt to find out.

Jama Mahlalela Could Be the Next Guy Out of the Bay

In most cases, the NBA teams that are making coaching changes are the ones who are looking to retool, reload, rebuild or otherwise turn the page. Where those kinds of situations are concerned, the exec opined to Deveney that Warriors player development guru Jama Mahlalela could be a name to watch in the future.

“If you get a team that is going into a rebuild and is looking for that developmental guy, I would expect Mahlalela to get a good look,” the exec said.

The 42-year-old Mahlalela has been with the Warriors since 2021 after having spent several years with the Toronto Raptors in various capacities. He was an assistant coach with the club from 2013 to 2018 before shifting over to the G League for a two-season stint as head coach of Raptors 905.

He later rejoined Nick Nurse’s staff for a final season as an assistant before moving on to the Warriors.

Added the GM: “He is on top of all the advanced stats, he is a very sharp guy, but he also is a very good communicator, good at knowing how to bring guys along at their own pace. If Detroit or Indiana were to make a change, he would probably be a good candidate. If Charlotte does a tear-down, Mahlalela would at least get an interview, you’d think.”

Could Kenny Atkinson Get Another Shot?

The GM also mentioned Kenny Atkinson, 55, who already has head-coaching experience at the NBA level (with the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-20).

“Kenny has shown he has coaching chops. He can certainly do a rebuild, he has done it before. But he might be looked at for a team like Atlanta, a place he coached at before. A team that is underachieving and needs a change of attitude — Kenny brings a lot of positivity.”

Atkinson very nearly joined Brown in leaving for a head coaching job over the summer. At one point, he actually agreed to become the next man on the sidelines for the Charlotte Hornets before a change of heart led to him backing out of the deal and returning to the Bay.

While some might see that kind of flip-flop as a negative, the GM didn’t think it would be enough to preclude him from getting another gig in the future.

“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 opined.

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