New York Knicks: Mike Budenholzer endorses Kenny Atkinson as coach

Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Mike Budenholzer thinks Kenny Atkinson would be a good head coach of the New York Knicks.

In an alternate reality, Mike Budenholzer would be coaching the New York Knicks instead of the Milwaukee Bucks; but David Fizdale ended up coming to Madison Square Garden instead. Now, Budenholzer would “love to see” Kenny Atkinson get the Knicks job.

"“I’d love to see him be coach of the Knicks,” Budenholzer told the New York Post. “It’s a great opportunity. He understands he’ll have a bunch of opportunities and situations. He’s had an amazing life with a great family. It would be a home run for him. There’s nothing like coaching the team you grew up with, he worked with. And with what they’re trying to do and where they are.”"

Atkinson has built a reputation for player development, working two seasons under Budenholzer in Atlanta, before taking the lead job with the Brooklyn Nets in 2016. After two seasons of grinding development, the Nets fortunes turned around, winning 42 games in 2018-19, as one of the most exciting young teams in the league.

Kenny Atkinson would look to turn around the Knicks like he did with the Nets.

Ironically, the work Atkinson did to turn the Nets into an attractive destination for free agents ultimately led to his demise when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving arrived in the summer of 2019. Atkinson was fired 62 games into the 2019-20 season.

Durant and Kyrie reportedly never connected with Atkinson, with Durant claiming the team needed to “improve their habits” in order to build a championship level team. This has led some to worry that Atkinson is better for coaching young players than stars, but Budenholzer isn’t buying that.

"“It’s totally unfair,’’ Budenholzer told the New York Post. “For culture and accountability, you got to be willing to coach the best player. It is really important. We were lucky when we were together we had great ‘best players’ — high character who wanted to be coached. It was a perfect environment for [Atkinson] — to see that. Kenny has ability to coach any players, including the stars and best players in the league.”"

The Knicks are expected to begin their interview process soon (if they haven’t already) with another former Knicks assistant Tom Thibodeau considered the front-runner for the job.

It has also been reported that New York will interview Atkinson, along with former Knicks coach Mike Woodson. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson have been linked to the team, although neither have reportedly been granted interviews.

Despite a belief that John Calipari would be the true favorite for the job, if interested, reports suggest that he is not looking to leave Kentucky.