The Golden State Warriors have been on cloud nine since winning their fourth NBA championship in eight seasons last week. There’s Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all lathered up from libation consumption, and being super petty towards any and everyone who doubted their return to the top.
There was also head coach Steve Kerr stepping off the plane following the return home, and telling reporters he was hungover.
The parade was a blast, but lost in the shuffle was the decision by assistant Kenny Atkinson made to not take the Charlotte Hornets head coach position, but stay with the Dubs as Kerr’s lead assistant.
A couple of days after ESPN reported Atkinson was the head coach-in-waiting in the “Queen City,” the former Brooklyn Nets head coach changed his mind. With lead assistant Mike Brown leaving Golden State to take over the Sacramento Kings, Atkinson thought the better move for him at this point in his career was to remain with the champs.
The network described the about-face this week:
“ESPN Sources: Kenny Atkinson has decided he won’t become the Charlotte Hornets head coach and will remain with the Golden State Warriors as the top assistant. After being offered the job during the NBA Finals, further conversations led Atkinson to believe it would be best to remain with the Warriors.”
The move shocked the basketball world. In an interview with NBC Sports, Kerr talked about Atkinson’s children’s desire to stay on the West Coast.
"Kenny's got two kids [teenagers] who really wanted to stay… We're lucky to have him back especially losing Mike Brown next year, I need Kenny"
🗣️ Steve Kerr on why Kenny Atkinson backed out on the Charlotte Hornets' head coaching jobpic.twitter.com/8A1X5LF9kq
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 20, 2022
Is This Steve Kerr’s Way Of Getting Revenge
It’s no secret that Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr have respect for each other from their time together with the Bulls. Winning three championships as teammates, Jordan passed to Kerr for the clinching shot in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals. It was a shot diagrammed in the huddle by Jordan and Kerr who both agreed that if the Jazz doubled MJ, he’d kick it to the sharpshooter, Kerr, who said “I’m going to make one for you.” That he did, breaking an 86-86 tie and leading the Bulls to their fifth title in seven seasons.
"Tonight, Steve Kerr earned his wings."
—MJ after the Bulls won the 1997 finals pic.twitter.com/0IAVpY34Nf
— ESPN (@espn) May 18, 2020
But it wasn’t always peachy between the two teammates. Former head coach Phil Jackson details a time he had to throw Jordan out of practice for punching Steve Kerr during his first season with the team (1995-96). Jordan, the ultimate competitor and downright nasty at times, became infuriated with how intensely Kerr was guarding him and popped the much smaller guard.
"I just haul off and hit him right in the f—ing eye. And Phil just throws me out of practice."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 4, 2020
Jordan later apologized and the relationship grew from there.
In an excerpt from “The Last Dance,” Jordan says he called Kerr, and the two hashed it out. Kerr even earned his respect for not backing down to the game’s best player.
“He earned my respect because he wasn’t willing to back down to be a pawn in this whole process,” His Airness said.
Apology or not, no man will ever forget when another man kicked his ass. So in regard to that, could Atkinson turning down the Hornets job be a little sweet revenge 25 years later? Anytime Kerr can sucker punch MJ to return an old favor, he probably will.
Jordan’s Track Record As An Owner Isn’t Good
Another reason why Atkinson may have decided against joining the Hornets is Jordan’s track record as an owner.
Jordan has made some big blunders as it pertains to drafting players, starting with taking Kwame Brown No.1 overall in 2001 when he was minority owner of the Washington Wizards. He then drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2 overall in 2012. And then Frank Kaminsky No. 9 overall in 2015. Each were basically “busts” and there were much better options available that Jordan missed out on.
He’s overpaid for free agents and hired some very average coaches. It’s been a mess in Charlotte with Jordan at the controls. He’s banking on budding star LaMelo Ball to hopefully change that tune.
It would have been a nice challenge for Atkinson who has team-building skills and hasn’t been the main man since the Brooklyn Nets trashed him for Steve Nash. For now, Atkinson has decided to stay with the winners and probably help the GS Dynasty to more title runs – and some blowout wins over Jordan’s Hornets.