Warriors High-Profile Assistant Could Bolt for Head Coaching Gig

Getty Images Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors reacts with Kenny Atkinson.

The Atlanta Hawks fired head coach Nate McMillan on Tuesday and Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson is among the top candidates for the opening.

Atkinson won a title last year with the Warriors and turned down a head coaching gig with the Hornets this offseason. He was offered the job and initially accepted before deciding to instead return to the Warriors.

Atkinson was on the short list of coaches to be considered for the job by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Former Utah Jazz coach Quinn Snyder is considered the top candidate.

“Snyder has history as a Hawks assistant coach under Mike Budenholzer, as do two more candidates expected to be part of the process: Milwaukee Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee and Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson,” Wojnarowski reported.

Atkinson’s previous head coaching experience came with the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-20. The Nets went 118-190 over that span and made the postseason once.

Atkinson Called Warriors Job ‘Perfect’ Situation

Atkinson is clearly on the radar for another head coaching job but hasn’t seemed too concerned about it thanks to his setup with the Warriors under Steve Kerr.

“This isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve had a lot of experience in this league,” Atkinson said in October. “But from a leadership standpoint, top to bottom, plus 1-through-15, we have a great group. Usually, there’s something that doesn’t work. Something staff-wise that’s not always perfect. But this is kind of perfect.

“Well, nothing’s perfect, but this is as close to perfect as you can get. I’m not just saying that to blow smoke. Everything kind of comes together here, from a staff and front-office leadership standpoint. It’s all impressive.”

The Hawks have some talent on the roster but still a lot to figure out. After making the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2020-21 season, the Hawks were bounced in the first round last season. The Hawks are 29-30 at the All-Star break and are the No. 8 seed in the East.

“Atlanta has significant offseason decisions to make on how it wants to shape the roster, and the chance to move quickly on a coaching search could give the Hawks a better prism with which they’ll evaluate the franchise’s future,” Wojnarowski said. “[Hawks GM Landry Fields] wants a coach who’ll improve the franchise’s player development and accountability and get the team moving toward the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rankings.”

Warriors Looking to Make Their Own Postseason Push

Things haven’t gone smoothly for the Warriors this season during their title defense. They’ll emerge from the break 29-29 and have some work to do to keep pace in a packed Western Conference. Kerr thinks the off-time will serve his team well.

“I think everybody needed the break, and I think a lot of guys came in refreshed and recharged today and we had a really good practice so the break was needed,” Kerr said after players returned to practice on February 21.

A big factor for the Warriors is the health of superstar Stephen Curry, who has been out since early February with a leg injury. A timeline remains uncertain but Curry was on the court during practice for some light, non-contact work.

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