Kenny Atkinson ‘Gaining Steam’ In Cavs Coaching Search

Eventually, the Cavaliers will pick a coach. But until then, who’s in the lead seems to change on a weekly basis.Kenny Atkinson, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

For most of this week, it’s been New Orleans Pelicans assistant James Borrego. Before that, it was Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson. Now, it appears to be Atkinson again. We think.

Per Marc Stein of The Stein Line, Atkinson has been “gaining steam” to become the Cavs’ next coach. Stein also listed Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori as being in contention. For the record, sources have told Hoops Wire that Nori is indeed a sleeper. 

It is believed that Cavaliers head of basketball operations Koby Altman has interviewed each of the three aforementioned candidates at least once.

So, what helps a candidate pick up steam? Well, it’s hard to say. Maybe a second interview. Or maybe even a first — as Atkinson reportedly has been overseas.

Who’s actually in the lead no one knows, as round and round this coaching carousel goes.

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.

According to NBA insiders Michael Scotto (HoopsHype) and Chris Fedor (, the Cavaliers are expected to hire Borrego or Atkinson.

“I believe, based on the intel I’ve been able to gather, that James Borrego is the leader in the clubhouse for this thing,” Fedor said on Scotto’s podcast. “They’re into the next phase of this interview process, where they’ve taken 10 candidates and shrunk it to four or five finalists. Borrego met with them in person on Tuesday. Atkinson is supposed to meet with them at some point this week as well. I believe Borrego is the leader in the clubhouse and has interviewed well from everything I’ve heard and the intel they’ve gotten back from people close to James, who’ve worked with James and have seen his strengths and weaknesses up close and personal.

“Every general manager has relationships with other organizations across the league. Some of those trustworthy connections are stronger than others. For example, Koby Altman is very close to Justin Zanik, one of the Jazz executives, and they’ve worked out a number of deals. I say that to bring up this point: There are no ties between the Cavaliers and any other organization in the NBA that are stronger than the ones they have with the New Orleans Pelicans.”

“Kenny Atkinson did a video Zoom interview with the Cavaliers, I’m told,” Scotto said. “Atkinson will be an assistant coach on the French National Team this summer. For Atkinson, who has strong relationships with Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, the big question Cleveland is asking is whether he can coach a team that’s ready to compete now in their eyes. I think so. He had little talent to work with in Brooklyn and maximized it, and the year the Nets made the No. 6 seed, nobody thought they would be that good. I’d like to think if he had more talent, he’d be able to maximize it.”

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  1. It can’t actually take this long to make the decision. Somebody is the better candidate. They know who they want. If it takes this long to figure out if the money is worth it, then that’s a problem too. The foot race story line on this coaching search has run it’s course. Stop using these men’s names and pay and name a coach. Be freakin professional for a change, and stop putting on a show. We’re dallying and the work planning next season needed to start well before yesterday.

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