Darvin Ham was scheduled for a second interview for the Hornets‘ head coaching job prior to becoming the new head coach of the Lakers. With Ham off the table, former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are considered finalists for the position, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
President of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak has been busy preparing for the upcoming draft (the Hornets own the Nos. 13, 15, and 45 picks), which is partly why Charlotte’s search has progressed slower than the vacancies in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Kupchak’s new extension is a two-year deal, sources tell Fischer.
Another reason for the relative lack of progress is that none of the coaching candidates have met with owner Michael Jordan yet, as he was on vacation, but the final stage of interviews could occur this week once he returns, Fischer reports.
At the combine a couple of weeks ago, league personnel indicated Atkinson appeared to be gaining momentum for the position. The former Nets head coach “projected great confidence” that he’d ultimately land the job in calls with team staffers and other NBA figures with knowledge of the organization, according to Fischer. Atkinson is known as a detail-oriented person, and sources close to the coach indicate the research he’s done on the Hornets is reflective of that, Fischer says.
However, D’Antoni’s name has been linked to the Hornets most often, and a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told Fischer that D’Antoni appears to be favored by Jordan, which contradicts the “push-back” that Marc Stein received after reporting that D’Antoni appeared to be a strong candidate. Stein also recently said that if D’Antoni is hired, the offensive-minded coach could bring former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, who’s known as a defense-first coach, along with him as an assistant.
As Fischer observes, Atkinson’s strong background in player development seemingly fits well with a young team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015/16 (the Hornets were eliminated in the first game of the play-in tournament as the No. 10 seed each of the past two seasons). Having said that, Atkinson’s player development background is similar to James Borrego, who was fired after the season ended, leading to league speculation that Charlotte might opt to hire D’Antoni instead.