It is generally assumed that people who become head trainers do so so that they can run their own shop in their own way. That coaches rarely receive this freedom is no longer the issue – people need to dream the dream they have for themselves.
So the relatively low-key announcement on Friday that Golden State assistant coach Kenny Atkinson had changed his mind and decided against making more money in Charlotte was a bit stunning. Just a little though; I think we’ve all been stuffed to our ears with warrior stories for a while, and they don’t have their traffic-disturbing drunken parade until Monday.
But Atkinson will be there on a float with Mike Brown, who has taken another job (Sacramento, of all places), sure he’ll be an assistant to Steve Kerr until . . . well, probably until something better than Charlotte comes along.
Still, the rebuke is the thing here, in that at least one person with a shot at being the boss decided to stay with the former boss, leaving us to speculate on potential theories as to why Atkinson didn’t want to be a Hornet, or if you must, a Jordanaire. Put it this way: The decision was surprising enough that The Athletic didn’t erase its “What do the Hornets get in Kenny Atkinson?” story from nine days ago.
But no one has put a grasping finger, tentacle, claw or tail on why Atkinson did what coaches don’t, leaving us guessing why he left money and power on the table. Witness it:
- Maybe he didn’t leave any money on the table after all. Seems like a small and unlikely reason to stick around, but Joe Lacob seems to enjoy his reputation as an ostentatious cash-splasher, and there wouldn’t be more of a landlord/gangster move than paying more for an assistant than a no other owner would do it for a head. coach, especially when that other owner is Michael Jordan. Seems unlikely since Atkinson agreed to go to Charlotte until he disagreed, so the money was probably fair enough for now, but freedom of action under Jordan and the general manager Mitch Kupchak suddenly felt more restrictive than the possibility of getting new rings. .
- Maybe the Hornets suspect they’re about to lose Miles Bridges, their second-best player, to free agency lures, and the idea of a non-playoff team being less of a playoff didn’t sit well. at Atkinson after eight days of consideration. . It also seems unlikely, as he reportedly asked about it in his interviews.
- Maybe he’s been promised to succeed Kerr in San Francisco, though that seems like an awfully long time to cool his ambitions. The general assumption is that Kerr will stay as long as Stephen Curry makes Kerr’s life too easy for words, i.e. Kerr will stay until Curry leaves. Assuming Curry stays through the $59 million year in 2026, Atkinson’s wait would be exhausting. That seems unlikely as there will be other job openings and Atkinson’s name will only shine with the wait. Plus, coaching the Warriors without Curry feels too much like real work.
- Maybe he likes the sweet real estate prices in the Bay Area, in that he can get a nice five-bed, four-bathroom house on three acres in Fresno and the commute from three hours each way isn’t a big deal for him because he can design offensive sets in his head as he runs through Lathrop. Maybe if he had kept the Charlotte concert, he would have commuted from Charleston. It seems unlikely because only an idiot would do that.
- Maybe he just got his ambition beaten by his time in Brooklyn, where what he did worked until Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s regime change gave it all back. what he built unrelated to the greater cause of player empowerment. The Warriors avoid diary miners better than most teams because Curry’s diary is not another diary, and he remains the alpha-east of all Warriors in the kennel. It seems unlikely as he was open to going to Charlotte, which is ambition at the expense of common sense.
- Maybe he likes the grudged, little-remembered, name-taking new Warriors, or he doesn’t want to miss a single “Fuck Draymond Green” chant for the rest of Green’s career. It also seems unlikely, but it’s an attractive decoy considering that some of the people who adopted the new battle chant were his teammates. I mean, if Warrior fans aren’t singing this at the ringside ceremony on opening night, they just don’t understand the team’s new vibe. It seems at least slightly plausible because who wouldn’t want to hear fans use this chant as a badge of honor and appreciation?
- Maybe Kerr thought about losing Atkinson and Brown at the same time and decided he had a better chance of beating Atkinson into the submission to keep him from leaving than Brown. It makes a lot of tangential sense considering Kerr is a supreme red ass behind that articulate veneer, and it would be delightfully funny to imagine him as a good guy with a rarely shown side of a vengeful psychopath.
Of these theories, numbers 6 and 7 seem the most entertaining if not necessarily the most plausible. And unless Atkinson has a better story than either of these, these are the ones we’re going with until he gets the offer he can’t refuse from Detroit. in 2023. . . or Houston in 2024. . . or New York in 2025. . . or Sacramento in 2023 or 2025 or 2027 or 2029 or . . . well, you know a pattern when you see one. Mike Brown is a great comrade and a great tactician, but it’s still Sacramento, with equal relish in firing coaches for lack of better ideas. Brown may come to envy Kenny Atkinson for staying, whatever the reason. At least that’s the way to bet.