Kenny Atkinson

Six candidates for Warriors to consider as Atkinson's replacement

NBC Universal, Inc.

Less than two weeks away from training camp as head coach for Team USA’s men’s basketball team, Steve Kerr on Monday was in the familiar position of hanging a “Help Wanted” sign on the door of the Warriors.

Already lining up a replacement for the late Dejan Milojević, who died in February, Kerr now has another opening with the departure of top assistant Kenny Atkinson, who reportedly accepted the job as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Atkinson is the fourth top assistant to leave for a top job elsewhere since Kerr arrived in Golden State in 2014, following Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), Luke Walton (Los Angeles Lakers) and Mike Brown (Sacramento Kings).
Kerr’s tendency in hiring top assistants has been to value experience as an NBA head coach. Of his four top assistants over the years, only Walton had no experience in that role before joining the Warriors.

Though Kerr, according to multiple league sources, contacted Darvin Ham shortly after he was fired by the Los Angeles Lakers last month, Ham ended up rejoining the Milwaukee Bucks as top assistant to Doc Rivers. Ham spent four seasons in Milwaukee as an assistant under Mike Budenholzer before going to LA.

That’s but one example of shrinkage in the pool of candidates over the past month, as new coaches hired assistants.

Here are six candidates still available to the Warriors as of Monday afternoon, with five fitting the profile of Kerr’s past hires and one that does not:

J.B. Bickerstaff

Bickerstaff spent five seasons as head coach of the Cavaliers, rebuilding in the first two, posting winning records in the last three, with back-to-back NBA playoff appearances in the last two. Though his contract runs through the 2025-26 NBA season, he was fired one week after Cleveland’s loss to the eventual-champion Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He previously was head coach in Houston and Memphis. Bickerstaff, 45, is known for emphasizing defense.

James Borrego

Despite 10-win improvements in his final three seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Borrego was fired in 2022. One year later, he landed in New Orleans as Pelicans associate head coach under Willie Green. A finalist with Atkinson in Cleveland, Borrego is a candidate for the Detroit Pistons, who last week fired Monty Williams and now have the only remaining opening in the NBA. New Detroit general manager Trajan Langdon worked with Borrego in New Orleans. Borrego, 46, is considered a defensive strategist.

Chris DeMarco

DeMarco, 38, the lone Golden State coaching staffer from the Mark Jackson era, is known for being a straight shooter who builds rapport on all levels. He came to the Warriors in 2012 as a video intern, moving up to video coordinator the following year and into an assistant coach role in 2015. The only head-coaching experience on his resumé is with the Bahamas national team, which last summer shocked Argentina in the Olympics Prequalifying Tournament Final.

Becky Hammon

Would Kerr make an “outside the box” hire? He has considered it in the past. If he chooses to pull from the WNBA, Hammon is the obvious candidate. As head coach, she has led the Las Vegas Aces to back-to-back championships. She has NBA experience, spending seven seasons as an assistant with San Antonio. Hammon, 47, has interviewed to be an NBA head coach and in 2021 was a finalist for the job in Portland, which hired former NBA star Chauncey Billups.

Terry Stotts

The longtime head coach of the Trail Blazers (2012-21), who reached the 2019 Western Conference finals, left the organization in 2021. He took a year off before accepting a job last summer as the lead assistant under first-year Milwaukee head coach Adrian Griffin. That lasted less than four months, as philosophical differences with Griffin led to Stotts submitting his resignation. Kerr has shown admiration for Stotts as an offensive mind. Is Stotts, at 66, still longing to get back into the coaching business?

Frank Vogel

He has one of the longest resumés in the NBA, spending 10 years as an assistant before becoming head coach for four different teams (Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, Lakers, Phoenix Suns) over the past 14 years. He lasted only one season in Phoenix, being fired after the Suns were swept in a first-round Western Conference playoff series in April. Vogel, 51, still had four seasons remaining on a five-year, $31 million contract. He is a widely respected coach mostly aligned with building a strong defense.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast

Contact Us