When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways before the end of last season, the conventional wisdom around the league was he would get a head coaching job fast. After he had helped build a culture and playoff team in Brooklyn, the theory was another rebuilding team would snap him up.
Didn’t work out that way, despite multiple interviews. Now it appears Atkinson will head to the left coast to be part of the Los Angeles Clippers’ staff, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times.
Heat assistant coach Dan Craig, who interviewed for Indiana’s head-coaching vacancy, is said to be another top target for Lue’s staff with the Clippers, which is also expected to include another former NBA coach head coach in Larry Drew
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 23, 2020
Tyronn Lue, who moved up one chair in Los Angeles, is putting together an impressive staff.
Atkinson’s departure in Brooklyn was, reportedly, because he did not win over Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, two players who changed the power dynamic in the locker room and organization. Now he heads to a Clippers’ team where uniting the locker room and the factions will be a big step toward the team living up to its potential.
The Clippers had made the playoffs two seasons ago thanks to a gritty, hard-working, in-your-face mindset. Patrick Beverley, Motrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams were the heart of that team. The additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George changed the dynamic in the locker room, and there was resentment at the special treatment Leonard and George received. Throw in injuries that kept the team from getting any continuity on the court and things broke down when the playoffs’ pressure came.
It’s the dynamic Lue, and apparently Atkinson with him, need to change with the Clippers. Coaching Los Angeles is not simply going to be about the Xs and Os; it’s going to be about managing personalities.