The Golden State Warriors are continuing to fill out their bench, not with players quite yet, but with more coaches to join Steve Kerr‘s new-look staff. On Wednesday, the Dubs came to agreements with two men to hop aboard for the 2021-2022 campaign, including one former Eastern Conference head coach who will now be Kerr’s lead assistant.
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A New York native, Atkinson began his NBA coaching career as an assistant for the Knicks from 2008 to 2012 under Mike D’Antoni and later Mike Woodson. He then spent three seasons as an assistant for Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks from 2013 to 2016, which included three straight playoff appearances and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015.
Atkinson landed his first head coaching gig in the Association with the Brooklyn Nets before the 2016-2017 season, but took over a team coming off of a 21-61 finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference the year prior. Over his nearly four full seasons with the Nets, Atkinson went just 118-190 – with one five-game playoff series defeat in 2019 – before being fired near the end of the 2019-2020 campaign.
The 54-year-old spent this past season as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers under Tyronn Lue. Atkinson will join returning assistant coach Mike Brown at the front of the Warriors’ bench, though the hiring has not yet been made official.
Warriors Also Adding Raptors Assistant to Development Staff
In addition to the Atkinson move, the Warriors are also planning on bringing in former Toronto Raptors assistant Jama Mahlalela as a player development coach.
Though the move has not yet been announced, Mahlalela has already been hired by the Dubs, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole. Mahlalela has been with the Raptors for six of the last seven NBA seasons.
Dubs Have Acted Quickly in Filling out Spots on Bench
Atkinson and Mahlalela are far from the only coaching moves the Warriors have made through the early stages of the off-season. On June 7, longtime assistant Jarron Collins announced he was leaving the team to pursue other coaching opportunities.
One week later, the Warriors moved to hire Serbian basketball legend Dejan Milojević. The 44-year-old is a former three-time Adriatic League MVP award winner and also coached 2021 NBA MVP Nikola Jokić from 2012 to 2015.
Milojević is expected to work closely with 2020 second overall pick James Wiseman – who has been mentioned in trade rumors – in the upcoming season. Prior to choosing Atkinson as his lead assistant, Kerr was reportedly considering former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.
According to Poole, the Atkinson and Mahlalela pick-ups may wrap-up the coaching hires for the summer.
“It is believed that the hires complete Kerr’s staff for the 2021-22 season,” he wrote. “The player payroll will be high, back in the luxury tax zone. The coaching staff salaries have gone up because (Warriors CEO) Joe) Lacob and the front office are determined to at least approach the standard set when the Warriors made five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
“If it takes a few dollars more to get there, so be it.”
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