Sources: Cavs Hoping To Hire Coach Before NBA Draft

President of basketball operations Koby Altman and the Cavaliers are aiming to have a coach in place before the 2024 NBA Draft on Wednesday, though there’s no guarantee they do, sources told Hoops Wire.Koby Altman, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, New Orleans Pelicans assistant James Borrego and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori are believed to be under serious consideration. Others could be in the mix.

Per Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, the Cavaliers are deciding solely between Atkinson and Borrego. The Athletic also reported that the team hopes to have a coach in place before the draft.

“Multiple sources briefed on the looming decision to replace J.B. Bickerstaff, who was fired last month, said both Borrego and Atkinson have support among the team’s top executives, and the team is hoping to have its choice by the NBA Draft, which begins Wednesday,” Charania, Vardon and Lloyd wrote.

Borrego was reportedly the frontrunner last week before Atkinson met with Gilbert. Marc Stein of The Stein Line was the first to report that Gilbert was a fan of Atkinson, citing Michigan State coach Tom Izzo‘s influence.

“Potentially boosting Atkinson’s chances: Legendary Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is said to be an Atkinson fan,” Stein wrote. “Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, of course, is a well-known Izzo fan who graduated from Michigan State and is said to have resumed significant involvement in team affairs compared to recent years.

Gilbert has taken over coaching searches before. Back in 2014, Gilbert spoke to then-Kentucky coach John Calipari about the Cavs’ vacancy — and then-Cavs GM David Griffin was initially unaware until informed by Hoops Wire/AmicoHoops.

Atkinson coached the Nets from 2016-20 and went 118-170 in the regular season and 1-4 in the playoffs. He was fired just days before the season shut down as a result of the COVID pandemic in March 2020.

He then spent 2020-21 as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, before joining Steve Kerr and the Warriors as an assistant a year later.

Borrego, 46, is currently an assistant under Willie Green with the Pelicans. Before that, he served as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, compiling a 138-163 record from 2018-22. The Hornets improved by 10 wins in each of Borrego’s final three seasons. That said, he has never been a head coach in the playoffs.

Nori, 50, has been the lead assistant under Timberwolves coach Chris Finch since 2021, and even filled in for Finch when Finch went down with a torn patellar tendon in his knee during a playoff game.

Before that, Nori was an assistant with the Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors, dating back to 2009. He attended college at Indiana University and was set to become a high school athletic director when then-Raptors assistant and friend Butch Carter convinced him to join the Raptors.

Nori hails from Middleton, Ohio, the same town as NBA legend Jerry Lucas.


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