Cleveland Cavaliers Hire Kenny Atkinson as New Head Coach, per Report

The former Brooklyn Nets head coach has spent the last three seasons with the Golden State Warriors.
Jan 27, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Just over a month after moving on from J.B. Bickerstaff, the Cleveland Cavaliers have found a new head coach.

On Monday, news broke from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that the Cavs had hired Kenny Atkinson to be the next head coach of the franchise. Atkinson coached the Brooklyn Nets from 2016 to 2020 and spent the last three years under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors.

Atkinson has been a hot name on the coaching market for a few years now. During the 2022 NBA Finals, Atkinson was reported to have taken the open Charlotte Hornets job but ended up turning it down. His name has been in the rumor mill ever since.

Atkinson boasts a career head coaching record of 118-190. He was hired by the Nets in 2016 to resuscitate a paltry roster limping along in the wake of the disastrous Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade that hamstrung the franchise for many years. He managed to do so within two seasons, getting Brooklyn back to the playoffs and above .500 in the 2018-'19 season. However, Atkinson resigned halfway through the following season after the Nets brought Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to town.

Atkinson joins the Cavaliers at an interesting time. The franchise is coming off its deepest playoff run since the days of LeBron James but are fast approaching a crossroads. Star guard Donovan Mitchell is up for a max contract extension that would pay him north of $200 million. The Cavs seem very likely to offer it after trading multiple picks and players for Mitchell ahead of the 2022-'23 season, but Mitchell's interest in staying in Cleveland long-term is less assured.

The Athletic reported on Monday morning prior to the Atkinson hire that the organization was "confident" they'd reach an agreement with Mitchell. But that may lead to other problems. In the immediate aftermath of the Cavs' elimination at the hands of the Boston Celtics in May, reports emerged suggesting Darius Garland, a high-scoring guard in his own right, would prefer to play elsewhere if Mitchell signed a long-term deal.

There is a lot to puzzle out this offseason in Cleveland. But the franchise has its next head coach.


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Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a senior writer for the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in May 2024, McKeone worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, he is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books and video games. McKeone has been a member of the National Sports Media Association since 2020.