In other news, it appears @DaRealBootum's incessant stanning may be working: I'm hearing the Knicks interviewed Kenny Atkinson again yesterday.— Jonathan Macri (@JCMacriNBA) July 21, 2020
Not sure what this means for Thibs' or New York's timeline. Stay tuned. https://t.co/8utI36qpaB
Interesting news, to say the least. Are the Knicks trying to pressure Tom Thibodeau into making a decision (with the Rockets’ job apparently on his radar as well, should Mike D’Antoni and Houston decide to part ways at the end of the season)? Did they just want to talk with Kenny Atkinson again and be sure that they’re making the right choice? Marc Berman of the NY Post weighed in as well:
Can confirm Macri’s tweet Kenny Atkinson interviewed yesterday with Knicks but unclear if it was his second interview or third. Multiple sources say Knicks doing “very thorough” job.— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) July 21, 2020
That last part is very good. Being thorough is definitely a plus. Unfortunately, the Knicks were very thorough last time they were looking for a coach, and that netted them David Fizdale. But it’s still definitely a plus that even when the Knicks were supposedly “done,” they weren’t afraid to open the ol’ Zoom app again and give Atkinson a ring just to be sure.
That said, there’s also the chance that maybe the Knicks are looking to add both Kenny Atkinson and Tom Thibodeau.
I don’t think it’s the former. I also think, however unlikely it might be, there’s a chance this was a pitch for an associate HC position. But again, that’s pure speculation.— Jonathan Macri (@JCMacriNBA) July 21, 2020
As Macri said in the above tweet, it’s purely speculation. But the possibility is there for Atkinson to join the Knicks’ staff as an Associate Head Coach, similar to how Mike Woodson is on Doc Rivers’ Clippers staff or Jason Kidd is on Frank Vogel’s Lakers staff.
Why would Atkinson take that deal? Well, for one, it’s a pretty stale coaching market this offseason. Chicago is reportedly sticking with Jim Boylen due to a request from ownership. There’s rumblings that Brett Brown might be out in Philadelphia and the aforementioned D’Antoni might be out in Houston, but neither of those potential partings will come to pass until the fall, at the earliest.
Then there’s the little issue of money. The Rockets’ owner is begging Donald Trump for money through the federal stimulus to make up for lost profits from his restaurant chains this year. Other NBA owners will likely be in similar boats due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. So could James Dolan, with his gobs of MSG Network and LA-Forum-sale cash, make Atkinson a strong enough financial offer to take a year off from head coaching and tag-team the operation with Thibodeau on the Knicks? Who knows, but it’s definitely not out of the question in this extremely strange and unprecedented NBA landscape.
Lastly — and this is purely speculation on my part — Leon Rose used to head up CAA, which represents Atkinson in addition to Thibodeau. If Rose made it clear that the he and the Knicks would do nothing to inhibit Atkinson from getting another head coaching gig (and perhaps even give strong recommendations to whatever teams that could decide to interview him in the future), would he be inclined to take a win-win situation where he could stay near the front of an NBA bench, collect a big paycheck, and take little to no heat if the Knicks aren’t playing well? (Also with a slim chance of coaching the Knicks if the Thibodeau era doesn’t go well?)
Time will tell, but my guess is we’ll have the answers we seek sooner than later.