Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Kenny Atkinson reportedly has ‘internal support’ to be next Knicks coach

Kenny Atkinson Knicks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 20: Head coach Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets reacts after the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 20, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 112-104 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Getty Images

New York is going to hire Tom Thibodeau as its new head coach... unless Kenny Atkinson becomes the Knicks choice.

Thibodeau wants to return to NBA coaching, and his decades-long friendship with Rose made him the frontrunner from the start. It is likely still his job to lose.

However, former Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson is gaining support in the Knicks’ front office, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

While there is no specific timetable known for the Knicks’ head-coaching search, there is legitimate internal support within the organization to name Kenny Atkinson as its next head coach, league sources tell SNY...

Agents and other coaches with a vested interest in the Knicks’ search continue to see Thibodeau as the most likely hire if team president Leon Rose decides not to bring back [interim coach Mike] Miller as head coach. Other outlets have reported that Thibodeau is the early favorite.

What drives the Atkinson support at Madison Square Garden is his success developing young talent and setting a culture in Brooklyn. The Knicks have a young core they like — RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, a high draft pick this year — but as an organization has not been good at identifying and developing talent in recent years. If the Knicks are thinking about a patient rebuild around their youth, Atkinson would be a good choice.

Hiring him is also a shot at the Nets, who let him go.

The Knicks also believe they are well positioned to trade for a star. Dealing with elite players — in this case, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — proved to be Atkinson’s downfall in Brooklyn, as he was seen as inflexible with his system to cater to the new talent. Atkinson didn’t connect with the team’s imported stars.

Thibodeau has a history as a win-now coach who leans on veterans, but he struggled to relate to young players such as Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. Thibodeau says he has grown and will bring a new perspective to his next job, but is that a bet the Knicks want to make?

Mike Miller and Mike Woodson also are expected to interview for the Knicks’ job. There is support in the organization to take a look at Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy as well.

Leon Rose has not tipped his hand much, but the buzz around the league is this is still Thibodeau’s job, even if some in the Knicks’ organization love Atkinson.