Things are getting tight in Charlotte, and the coaching search is as crucial as ever to the organization, which is why team owner Michael Jordan is going to meet with the coaching finalists himself.
Who will Michael Jordan hire? Mike D'Antoni and Kenny Atkinson are reportedly the two finalists for the Hornets head coach job. @WilliePStyle is joining CSL tonight with his thoughts. #BuzzCity #Hornets #CharlotteSportsLive pic.twitter.com/ddJRv1iRFs
— Charlotte Sports Live (@CSLonQCN) June 6, 2022
With the franchise at a critical point with young talent that needs to be developed and put in a position to win big, Jordan isn’t leaving anything to chance.
According to multiple sources, including ESPN and Bleacher Report, MJ will be meeting with coaching finalists Mike D’Antoni and Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson. Though both coaches have already met with management multiple times, they need to pass the “Jordan eye test” as well to become the new head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets are very much in need of a new coach, especially after firing James Borrego at the conclusion of their season, which ended in them losing in the play-in tournament to the Atlanta Hawks. They ended the season with a record of 43-39, which is a decent season for a young team oozing with potential, a future superstar in Lamelo Ball, and an All-Star-caliber player in Miles Bridges. The team also boasts a strong veteran presence with standout guard Terry Rozier, and former All-Star Gordon Hayward.
In his four-years with the Hornets, Borrego’s coaching record was 138-163, and he recorded 3 losing seasons in a row before finally achieving a winning season this past year, but it seems the organization has had enough of losing, and regardless of the Hornets finally having a winning season, felt that the play-in tournament wasn’t their ceiling this year.
The Hornets were blown out a year before in the play-in tournament, and tried to use it as fuel to make the playoffs this year, only to meet the same result.
In the front office’s eyes, Borrego failed to improve on a span of disappointing seasons, and the play-in blowout was the final straw.
Moving forward, the Hornets have two coaching finalists that can definitely improve the franchise and are both deserving of the position.
Kenny Atkinson is the reported front-runner for the Hornets job.
Atkinson was an assistant on Mike D’Antoni’s staff with the Knicks.
D’Antoni served as a coaching advisor with the Pelicans this year.
Could he take the same role in Charlotte? pic.twitter.com/51R8YWcfuJ
— The Bring the Sting Podcast (@_BringTheSting) June 6, 2022
Mike D’Antoni: Offensive Pioneer
On one hand they have Mike D’Antoni, a coaching legend who is not only a two-time Coach of the Year but has tons of playoff experience and knows how to coach a team around a superstar. The success of the James Harden-led Rockets is proof. He is also the architect of the fast-paced “7-seconds offense” that propelled the 2000’s Phoenix Suns to much success and deep playoff runs. D’Antoni has an all-time coaching record of 672-527, and went 217-101 with the Houston Rockets in four years as their head coach, good for the highest winning percentage in that four-year span, ranking only second behind the Toronto Raptors.
Kenny Atkinson: Team Developer
The other candidate is Atkinson who was the Brooklyn Nets head coach from 2017-2020.
While coaching Brooklyn (pre KD and Kyrie), Atkinson only managed one winning season and playoff berth, quickly losing in the first round of the playoffs. Atkinson’s four years of coaching netted him a 118-190 record.
Though his coaching résumé seems minuscule next to D’Antoni’s, Atkinson has played a role in the success of Golden State, which is three wins away from winning the NBA Finals, and he has been able to soak up a lot of advice and knowledge from coaching great Steve Kerr.
Another attractive feature of Atkinson to Charlotte is that he has displayed the ability to coach a young, sub-par team to the playoffs, when he coached Brooklyn to a 42-40 season.
He only did this once though, and four years is a small sample size for a head coach, but that resolve and ability to deal with a young star (D’Angelo Russell) and find ways to win games with a young roster might just be what Michael Jordan is looking for.
Atkinson is set to meet with Jordan on Tuesday, while D’Antoni will be meeting with Jordan later in the week, according to sources.