Kenny Atkinson is emerging as a legitimate challenger for the New York Knicks’ head coaching job, and he has the support of one top NBA coach.
Speaking with Marc Berman of the New York Post this week, Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer stumped for Atkinson to become the next Knicks coach.
“I’d love to see him be coach of the Knicks,” said Budenholzer. “It’s a great opportunity. He understands he’ll have a bunch of opportunities and situations. He’s had an amazing life with a great family. It would be a home run for him. There’s nothing like coaching the team you grew up with, he worked with. And with what they’re trying to do and where they are.
“He’s just interesting because he’s so unique in that he is so true to player development and can really help players improve,” Budenholzer added about Atkinson. “The league has gotten a lot better with [development], but he’s one of the first — his ability doing it at a super-high level. And that’s married with a guy who has a great feel for the entire sport — five-on-five, game concepts, defensively and offensively. He has a very rare high ability to execute being a good player-developmental coach. Some people are very good at that and they’re not interested in the team stuff, five-on-five. It doesn’t click as well. Kenny does everything.”
Atkinson, who was let go by the Brooklyn Nets in March, spent four seasons prior to that as Budenholzer’s assistant on the Atlanta Hawks. That included Atlanta’s 60-win 2014-15 season where Budenholzer won Coach of the Year and the team sent a league-high four players to the NBA All-Star Game.
The 53-year-old Atkinson, indeed a widely-reputed talent development coach, appears to be gaining momentum for the Knicks job. While Tom Thibodeau remains the apparent frontrunner for the position, Atkinson might be the better fit for the team’s young roster of raw talent.