According to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, the LA Clippers will target former Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and current Miami Heat assistant coach Dan Craig for assistant coach positions on Ty Lue’s staff.
Atkinson coached the rebuilding Nets to a 118-190 record over four years, most successfully making an unexpected playoff appearance at 42-40 during the 2018-19 season. Last season, with the Nets adding Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant but both being injured, he coached the team to a 28-34 record before being fired–largely due to frayed relationships with Irving, who only played 20 games this season, and Durant, who did not play a single game.
He’s known as one of the best player development coaches in the league, an area highlighted by Clippers management as they have to make the most of limited draft assets moving forward, and was known for running an “equal-opportunity offense” in Brooklyn that might be compelling for a Clippers team that lacks one true elite playmaker. Before taking the Brooklyn job, Atkinson was an assistant with the New York Knicks and then Atlanta Hawks. He played professionally overseas until his retirement in 2004, briefly coaching in France before jumping to the NBA as the Houston Rockets’ director of player development.
Dan Craig is currently the lead assistant to Erik Spoelstra, widely regarded as the top coach in the NBA after the Miami Heat’s unexpected run to the NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble. Craig originally joined the Heat as an intern in their video department in 2003, slowly working his way up the organization’s ranks until eventually taking the #2 chair on the bench. Along the way, he had a one-year stop with the Heat’s G-League affiliate, the Souix Falls Skyforce, in 2015-16. All he did there was break a league record by finishing 40-10, win Coach of the Year, and win the championship. From my outsider’s perspective, he was one of the best head coaching candidates on the market this year.
It’s unclear if the Clippers will be able to land both (or either) of these prize potential assistants, especially as several head coaching vacancies persist around the league in Indiana and Oklahoma City. But as the team continues to invest in the margins in hopes of producing a championship, they’re looking in the right places.