Hornets Rumors: Kenny Atkinson Current Front-Runner for HC Job; to Have 3rd Interview

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 3, 2022

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 08:  Head Coach Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during the first half of an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on February 08, 2020 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson has reportedly "emerged as a front-runner" to fill the Charlotte Hornets' head coaching vacancy.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Friday that Atkinson, who served as the Brooklyn Nets' head coach from 2016 through 2020, will have a third interview with the Hornets next week, and the meeting is expected to include team governor Michael Jordan.

Other finalists include New Orleans Pelicans consultant Mike D'Antoni, who owns 16 seasons of head coaching experience, and Terry Stotts, who spent nine years leading the Portland Trail Blazers staff after stints with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.

Neither D'Antoni nor Stotts has been scheduled for an interview that includes Jordan, according to The Athletic.

Atkinson, who spent most of his 14-year playing career in Europe, switched to the coaching realm in 2004. He's served as an NBA assistant with the New York Knicks, Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers along with time with the Nets and Warriors.

The 55-year-old New York native guided Brooklyn to a 118-190 regular-season record with one postseason appearance across three-and-a-half seasons.

Despite that lackluster record, Atkinson has drawn positive reviews for his "sharp basketball mind and tireless work ethic," per Charania and Amick.

He continues to work for the Warriors, who are facing the Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals. On Thursday, the Celtics took a 1-0 lead in the championship series, which could run through June 19 if it goes the seven-game distance.

The coach chosen by the Hornets will inherit a roster on the rise.

Charlotte posted its first winning record since 2015-16 this season by going 43-39. It earned a place in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament but lost to Atlanta in the opening round.

The team's outlook remains bright thanks to a core that includes LaMelo Ball (20 years old), Miles Bridges (24), Terry Rozier (28), Kelly Oubre Jr. (26) and P.J. Washington (23).

James Bouknight (21) and Kai Jones (21), the Hornets' two additions from the first round of the 2021 draft, should also take steps to become more impactful contributors in the years ahead, and the franchise possesses the No. 13 and No. 15 selections in the opening round of the 2022 draft.

Having so much young talent creates a desirable coaching vacancy, but it'll also put a lot of pressure on the new coach to quickly push the group toward title contention.