Frontrunner For Cavs Head Coaching Opening Revealed

One name has emerged as the favorite to replace J.B. Bickerstaff in Cleveland.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers made the surprising decision to move on from J.B. Bickerstaff last week. They immediately started the process of hiring a new head coach and now we have a better idea of which direction they are leaning.

According to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, two names have emerged as potential frontrunners for the job but he singled out Kenny Atkinson as the current "leader" for the vacancy.

Cavs News: Kenny Atkinson the Frontrunner for Cleveland Job

Kenny Atkinson makes plenty of sense for the Cavaliers. The 56-year-old is one of the most respected assistant coaches in the league, spending the last few seasons with the Clippers and the Warriors under Ty Lue and Steve Kerr, respectively.

Previously, Atkinson was the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets between 2016 and 2020. He helped lead a young, inexperienced team to a surprise playoff berth in 2019. This success helped the team land Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Ironically enough, the star duo wanted a different coach, so Atkinson stepped down in the middle of next season and Brooklyn hired Steve Nash as a first-time head coach.

However, Atkinson continues to be regularly considered for head coaching openings around the league ever since. In 2022, he had agreed to take the Charlotte Hornets job before changing his mind and turning it down.

Lloyd further reports that Cleveland has a backup plan. Outside of Atkinson, he singles out Johnnie Bryant, an assistant coach with the New York Knicks, as a potential hire.

This is especially intriguing because of his connection to Donovan Mitchell. Bryant was an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz under Quin Snyder, where he coached Mitchell for four seasons before moving on to New York. Hiring him would be another sign that the Cavs are willing to do anything it takes to keep Mitchell in Cleveland long-term.

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