The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly have set their eyes on another head coaching candidate in Kenny Atkinson, who is currently serving as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Atkinson becomes the fifth candidate to interview for the opening.
ESPN Sources: The Los Angeles Lakers have received permission to interview Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson for the franchise’s head coaching job. Atkinson has already interviewed for the Charlotte Hornets’ job.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 12, 2022
While he is with the Warriors now, Atkinson made a name for himself as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. During his time in New York, Atkinson turned a young, unproven Nets team into a playoff side, led by former Laker D’Angelo Russell as well as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
Despite making the playoffs in 2018-19, Atkinson was fired three-quarters of the way through the next season. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant had some say in the move — and in decisions like playing DeAndre Jordan over Allen — as the pair came to Brooklyn that season but the team was stuck in a rut, holding a 28-34 record when Atkinson was fired.
Atkinson has a reputation as a player-development coach because of the role he had in building up multiple young players in Brooklyn. It was Atkinson who took in Russell after he was traded by the Lakers to Brooklyn and turned him into an All-Star. The cast of youngsters he turned into playoff contenders became one of the feel-good stories of the league and was a very impressive coaching feat.
The questions arise when it comes to his final season when, presented with a scenario with multiple superstars and an edict to win now, Atkinson and the Nets stumbled. It should be noted that Durant did not play that season as he was recovering from his torn Achilles injury, but the Nets still had a core of Irving, Dinwiddie, LeVert, Haris and Allen and still struggled.
What Atkinson does represent, though, is another example of the Lakers’ slow, deliberate approach when it comes to this search as they continue to interview a large number and variety of candidates.