NEW COACH: Hornets set to hire Warriors assistant

By Richard Walker

Multiple reports on Friday indicated the Charlotte Hornets have hired Kenny Atkinson to be their new head coach.

Kenny Atkinson

Atkinson, 55, is currently a Golden State Warriors assistant coach and long been considered a strong candidate since James Borrego was fired on April 22.

A source told the The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Friday that Atkinson, who would become the 12th head coach in franchise history, had not yet signed a contract.

Atkinson and former NBA head coaches Mike D’Antoni, Terry Stotts and possibly Quin Snyder have been considered the top candidates to replace Borrego, who guided Charlotte to a 140-163 record in four seasons that included play-in tournament losses in each of the last two seasons.

Atkinson is a former University of Richmond standout player who spent 14 years playing professional basketball in Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

His first NBA coaching job came as an assistant for the New York Knicks (2008-12) and Atlanta Hawks (2012-16) before Atkinson was hired as head coach by the Brooklyn Nets in 2016.

After he was fired with a 118-190 record in three plus years for the Nets that included a 2019 4-1 first round playoff loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, he spent the 2020-21 season as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers and this past season as an assistant with the Warriors; Golden State is currently playing the Boston Celtics in the NBA championship series.

With Charlotte, he inherits a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season and hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2001-02 season.

With the Hornets, Atkinson will inherit All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball, high-scoring guard Terry Rozier, promising forward Miles Bridges and veteran forward Gordon Hayward among others.

The Hornets coaching search included interviews with Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham (now Los Angeles Lakers head coach), D’Antoni, Stotts, Dallas assistant Sean Sweeney of Dallas, Brooklyn assistant David Vanterpool and Milwaukee assistant Charles Lee. Also, Snyder’s resignation last weekend made his a potential candidate.

Borrego, 44, was 138-163 in four seasons with the Hornets and had received a multi-year contract extension last August. He ranked fourth in overall wins for a franchise with only one coach with a winning record – all-time winner Allan Bristow (207-203).

Charlotte went 43-39 to finish in 10th place in the Eastern Conference this past season.

Here’s the list of previous Charlotte Hornets head coaches, which include Silas being hired twice:

Dick Harter (1988-90) 28-94 record
Gene Littles (1990-91) 37-87
Allan Bristow (1991-96) 207-203 (5-8 playoff record)
Dave Cowens (1996-99) 109-70 (4-8)
Paul Silas (1998-2002) 161-120 (11-12)
Bernie Bickerstaff (2004-07) 77-169
Sam Vincent (2007-08) 32-50
Larry Brown (2008-10) 88-104 (0-4)
Paul Silas (2010-12) 32-88
Mike Dunlap (2012-13) 21-61
Steve Clifford (2013-18) 196-214 (3-8)
James Borrego (2018-22) 140-163