The New York Knicks are in the midst of a search for their next head coach after David Fizdale was fired in December and assistant coach Mike Miller assumed the role of interim head coach. Although former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves headman Tom Thibodeau is considered by some to be the frontrunner to land the job, another candidate is gaining traction within the Knicks organization — former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson.
SportsNet New York‘s NBA insider Ian Begley reported over the weekend that Atkinson has “legitimate internal support within the organization.” According to Begley, those among Knicks’ decision-makers that favor Atkinson are pushing the 53-year-old largely on the strength of his track record in developing young players.
When Atkinson became the Nets’ coach in 2016, he inherited a rebuilding roster that featured just one regular rotation player — Randy Foye — over the age of 29. Over the next three-plus seasons, his club steadily improved, eventually winning 42 games and earning a playoff berth last season after having posted a 20-62 record in year one. During that time, Spencer Dinwiddie gradually evolved from being a seldom-used reserve to a 20-point scorer this season and former Nets guard D’Angelo Russell received his first All-Star invite.
This season, the Knicks similarly have seen only two players older than 30 — Wayne Ellington and Taj Gibson — suit up for the club. The team is currently looking to build around 19-year-old R.J. Barrett, 20-year-old Kevin Knox and 25-year-old Julius Randle. Recent lottery picks Dennis Smith, Jr. and Frank Ntilikina are also on the roster.
As reported previously by The Inquisitr, Thibodeau may have a leg up on Atkinson in terms of experience and success as a head coach at the highest level. Over eight years in the league, Thibodeau has accrued a 352-246 record and been to the playoffs six times. He also has an existing relationship with Knicks president Leon Rose.
Atkinson, meanwhile, posted a winning percentage of just 0.383 during his time in Brooklyn. However, he signed on to a rebuilding project when he became the Nets coach. Thibodeau’s Bulls were led by an MVP in Derrick Rose and several veteran players when he took his first job.
In addition to Atkinson and Thibodeau, the Nets will reportedly interview Miller and former Knicks coach Mike Woodson for the job. Woodson is the last coach to have led New York to a winning season, logging a 54-28 record during the 2012-13 season. Begley also reported that Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd both “have fans in the organization.”