After losing in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Golden State Warriors might see a shakeup to their coaching staff. No, not because they’re disappointed in the outcome of the season and making big changes, but because they might be losing someone.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Warriors lead assistant Kenny Atkinson is one of three finalists to become head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. The other candidates for the position are Nick Nurse, who was recently fired by the Toronto Raptors, and Adrian Griffin, one of Nurse’s assistants with the Raptors, and a candidate to replace him in Toronto.
Atkinson, who was the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets from 2016 through 2020, was hired by the Warriors ahead of the 2021-22 season. He drew interest for a number of head coaching jobs last offseason, and most notably made a verbal agreement to take over as coach of the Charlotte Hornets. But shortly after the Warriors beat the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals, Atkinson backed out of the Hornets job, reportedly believing it was in his best interest to stick with the Warriors a little longer.
One can’t imagine he would make such a decision if given the opportunity to coach the Bucks. Unlike the Hornets, who were a floundering lottery team with questionable management, the Bucks are a golden opportunity for a coach after firing Mike Budenholzer at season’s end.
Milwaukee has arguably the best player in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and an exciting core that includes All-Stars Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, as well as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Brook Lopez, should they retain him (he’s an unrestricted free agent).
The Bucks have everything in place to be a title contender for many years, after winning a championship in 2021, and having the best record in the NBA this season before a first-round flameout against the Miami Heat (which, in fairness, looks a lot more defensible a few weeks later).
If Atkinson is hired by Milwaukee, it would be just the latest in a long list of Warriors assistants getting poached. Steve Kerr has already seen three of his assistants land head coaching jobs (Luke Walton with the Los Angeles Lakers, Alvin Gentry with the New Orleans Pelicans, and Mike Brown with the Sacramento Kings), while also losing Willie Green and Jarron Collins to better opportunities.
But if there’s any consolation, Kerr could have a lot of reputable coaches available to replace Atkinson.