Kenny Atkinson, Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavaliers Land Their Man In Kenny Atkinson

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a new coach and some will tell you it was their pick all along. That man would be Kenny Atkinson, expected to officially be hired as new coach soon, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cavaliers had been nearing a decision late Sunday night, sources told Hoops Wire and others reported. Atkinson, 56, is currently an assistant with the Golden State Warriors and the former head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

He was reportedly one of two finalists, along with New Orleans Pelicans assistant James Borrego.

President of basketball operations Koby Altman and the Cavaliers were hoping to have a coach in place before Wednesday's NBA Draft, and it appears they indeed found their man.

While some reports suggested Cavs owner Dan Gilbert meddled in the decision, sources told Hoops Wire he merely spoke to the candidates. The final call on Atkinson was made by Altman and GM Mike Gansey.

Altman and Gansey "are especially eager for Atkinson's reputable player development program to impact young center Evan Mobley," Wojnarowski wrote, citing sources.

Borrego was reportedly the frontrunner last week before Atkinson met with Gilbert, according to Marc Stein of The Stein Line — who wrote that Gilbert was a fan of Atkinson, citing Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's influence.

"Potentially boosting Atkinson's chances: Legendary Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is said to be an Atkinson fan," Stein wrote. "Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, of course, is a well-known Izzo fan who graduated from Michigan State and is said to have resumed significant involvement in team affairs compared to recent years.

Gilbert has taken over coaching searches before. Back in 2014, Gilbert spoke to then-Kentucky coach John Calipari about the Cavs' vacancy — and then-Cavs GM David Griffin was initially unaware until informed by Hoops Wire/AmicoHoops.

Atkinson coached the Nets from 2016-20 and went 118-170 in the regular season and 1-4 in the playoffs. He was fired just days before the season shut down as a result of the COVID pandemic in March 2020.

He then spent 2020-21 as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, before joining Steve Kerr and the Warriors as an assistant a year later. Atkinson takes over for J.B. Bickerstaff, fired as coach after five-plus seasons.

(Portions of this story were posted with permission of Hoops Wire.)