SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets will have to begin their search again for a head coach because Kenny Atkinson changed his mind and will stay with the NBA champion Golden State Warriors after all.
Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday that Atkinson will remain with Golden State as an assistant coach and won’t become the new coach of the Hornets.
Both spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither Atkinson nor the Hornets revealed any details of the talks or agreement publicly. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he wouldn’t discuss it until the Hornets announced Atkinson’s hiring.
The move comes more than a week after Atkinson had agreed to a four-year contract. But the contract was never signed, one of the people said.
ESPN first reported that Atkinson had decided not to take the Charlotte job. His decision means Charlotte joins Utah as the lone NBA teams without coaches in place.
The Hornets have three picks, including two in the top 15, of Thursday’s draft and Charlotte may have to make the No. 13, No. 15 and No. 45 selections without a coach in place.
Golden State’s players had exit interviews Saturday ahead of the championship parade Monday, and were thrilled Atkinson had decided to help the Warriors try to chase another championship after Thursday’s Game 6 clincher at Boston.
“That means a lot,” forward Andrew Wiggins said. “He gave up a head coaching job to come back.”
Atkinson was 118-190 in three-plus seasons as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets when that franchise was undergoing a rebuilding process. He has spent the last two seasons as an assistant, first for the Los Angeles Clippers and now the Warriors.
“We knew the amazing job Kenny did when he was in Brooklyn. That doesn’t get talked about enough,” Golden State guard Jordan Poole said. “For him to be able to bring all of the knowledge and the insight and the positive emotion and militaristic drive that he has, to already add that to a winning culture is amazing. And we got a ring because of that. … He obviously is extremely invested and believes we can do it again. You want guys like that and people like that.”
The Hornets never announced Atkinson had been hired, presumably because the contract was not signed and because the Warriors were still playing. Another Golden State assistant — Mike Brown — is leaving to become head coach in Sacramento.
The Hornets had talked to several other candidates in their search to replace James Borrego, who was fired in April at the end of his fourth season.
Darvin Ham, Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts were known to be on Charlotte’s radar. Ham was hired as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s unclear whether D’Antoni or Stotts would still be interested in Charlotte, or whether the Hornets intend to approach either again.
* * *
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds and AP Sports Writer Steve Reed contributed to this report.