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Cavaliers hiring Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson as next coach, AP source says


CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers are hiring Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson as their new coach, a person familiar with decision told The Associated Press on Monday.

The Cavs have been looking for a new leader for their young team after firing J.B. Bickerstaff last month despite two straight playoff appearances.

The sides have agreed on a deal with details of Atkinson's contract still to be finalized, the person said.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not discussing its search publicly.

ESPN.com was first to report Atkinson heading to Cleveland.

Atkinson's hiring ends an expansive search by the Cavs' front office. Atkinson was one of at least six known candidates to interview with the team since Bickerstaff's firing on May 23 — a week after Cleveland was eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champion Boston Celtics.

The 57-year-old Atkinson checked all the boxes in what the Cavs were looking for: head coaching experience, offensive-minded and a strong reputation for player development.

Atkinson went 118-190 in his three-plus seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, overseeing their rise from the lower tier of the Eastern Conference to a playoff berth in 2019. He appeared to be set for an extended run with Brooklyn following the additions of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but had a surprising split from the franchise in 2020.

Atkinson’s parting was puzzling given the team’s growth under his guidance. After leaving, he spent one season on the Los Angeles Clippers’ staff before going to Golden State, where he was coach Steve Kerr’s top aide.

With the Warriors, Atkinson got to see one of the league’s best offensive players in Stephen Curry and immersed himself in a dynamic offense system he’s certain to borrow from with Cleveland.

Atkinson has some connections on the Cavs after working with center Jarrett Allen and forward Caris LeVert while in Brooklyn.

Hiring a new coach was the first priority in a pivotal summer for the Cavs. Next is getting All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to accept a long-term contract extension, the NBA draft and perhaps retooling the roster with trades.

After the Cavs were knocked out of the playoffs, president of basketball operations Koby Altman said the team needed a coach who could bring new ideas and a fresh approach to get the most from the team's core of players — Mitchell, Allen, guard Darius Garland and forward Evan Mobley.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba