Tom Thibodeau appears to have real competition for the New York Knicks head coach position.
For months, almost every report related to the New York Knicks‘ head coaching search has put Tom Thibodeau in the lead to land the position under new president Leon Rose. However, former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson might be making a late push for the job.
According to Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated, Atkinson was interviewed by the Knicks on Monday, which was originally believed to be his third meeting with the team, but Newsday reported later in the day it is in fact his second interview. It is worth mentioning that Newsday reported last week that all second interviews had been completed.
SNY has reported numerous times that Atkinson has internal support within the Knicks organization. He is one of 11 candidates, including interim coach Mike Miller, to be considered for the lead role. Newsday reported that each candidate received two interviews: a short, introductory Zoom call followed by a more in-depth meeting.
While New York has met with a long list of potential hires, it’s believed to be a three-man race between Thibodeau, Atkinson, and Hall-of-Fame point guard Jason Kidd, who reportedly “wowed” Knicks brass during his interview. The New York Post has reported that Kidd is the lone “long-shot threat” to Thibs.
Is Kenny Atkinson a real contender for the Knicks job?
It’s unclear what this latest news about Atkinson means. SNY’s Ian Begley recently spoke on ESPN radio in New York about the final hurdles remaining for a front-runner candidate, like Thibodeau, to clear: a contract must be negotiated and final sign-off is needed from owner James Dolan.
All indications have suggested the Knicks had completed their round of interviews and were simply finalizing their decision by the end of this month, which makes the timing of the Atkinson interview interesting. It’s possible he could be in consideration for an assistant role, but it would seem strange to bring him in for another interview before the head coach decision was announced.
Atkinson was an assistant coach with the Knicks from 2008-2012, joining the organization under Mike D’Antoni. He later moved to Atlanta where he worked under Mike Budenholzer, before landing the Nets job.
As head coach of the Nets, he took over a team seemingly stuck in purgatory, with little talent and bereft of first round picks, and turned them into a 42-win team that was appealing enough for both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to decide to sign with them in free agency.
Of course, Atkinson was fired shortly after Durant and Irving’s arrival, after Durant reportedly didn’t see the Nets building championship habits. The former Nets coach has also been tied to the Chicago Bulls as a potential landing spot.