Former Knicks assistant is top candidate for Lakers head coach after Ham firing

The Lakers fired Darvin Ham on Friday.
New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Darvin Ham
New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Darvin Ham / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers are searching for a new head coach after firing Darvin Ham on Friday. He led LA to the postseason in his two seasons at the helm, but it's championship or bust for LeBron James and the Lakers.

The Athletic's Shams Charania listed several top candidates for the vacancy (subscription required), including former New York Knicks assistant Kenny Atkinson. He joined Mike D'Antoni's coaching staff in 2008 and was in New York for four years before he joined Mike Budenholzer's staff in Atlanta.

Brooklyn hired Atkinson as its head coach in 2016, and he stepped down in 2020 when the Knicks were searching for their next head coach. Many fans wanted Atkinson in Manhattan, but New York hired Tom Thibodeau instead. In retrospect, that move has worked out pretty well for the Knicks.

Former Knicks assistant Kenny Atkinson linked to Lakers job

In 2022, the Hornets hired Atkinson as their next head coach after he spent one year as an assistant with the Clippers and another with the Warriors. He agreed to a four-year deal with Charlotte but decided soon after he wanted to stay with Golden State as a top assistant.

Atkinson has remained on Kerr's staff but could soon return to LA, except this time, as the head coach of the Lakers. Budenholzer, JJ Redick, and Ty Lue (if he leaves the Clippers) are the three other top candidates for the job. Budenholzer and Lue led teams to an NBA championship, while Atkinson helped lead the Warriors to a title in 2022.

The most interesting candidate is Redick, who retired from the NBA in 2021. The former sharpshooter is an ESPN analyst and will be part of the NBA Finals crew this year. Redick is also a top candidate for Charlotte's head coaching job. He's familiar with North Carolina, as he played four seasons at Duke.

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. You can bet that if Atkinson gets the Lakers job, he won't back out of it like he did with the Hornets. It's one of the most desirable yet challenging head coaching jobs in the NBA.