History suggests former Warriors' assistant is set up for failure in Cleveland

2022 NBA Finals - Game Four
2022 NBA Finals - Game Four / Elsa/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors have officially lost top assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, with the 57-year-old winning the role to replace J.B. Bickerstaff as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday, Atkinson won the job ahead of former Hornets coach and current Pelicans assistant James Borrego who is now expected to be prominent in the vacant role at the Detroit Pistons.

Former Golden State Warriors' assistant Kenny Atkinson will be hoping to avoid history after Dan Gilbert's intervention

Atkinson's hiring comes as a slight surprise after reports last week that Borrego had the edge on winning the Cavs' role. Yet as reported by The Athletic's Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd, the situation changed when Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert intervened, for not the first time, in the coaching search.

"Gilbert has in the past intervened in coaching searches, driving initiatives to hire David Blatt in 2014 and John Beilein in 2019, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to lure Tom Izzo away from Michigan State in 2010."

The Athletic

Gilbert's history of intervening in coaching roles hasn't necessarily driven great success for the winning applicant. David Blatt would lead the Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals where they lost 4-2 to the Warriors, before being fired mid-way through his second season after 123 total regular season games.

John Beilein coached just 54 games in which Cleveland accrued a 14-40 win-loss record in 2018-19, before choosing to re-sign despite having been signed to a five-year contract only nine months earlier.

Atkinson will now hope to have a considerably longer tenure than each of Blatt and Beilein, with the hope that Gilbert's intuition is better placed this time around. It's Atkinson's second head coaching role after his four-year tenure in Brooklyn yielded one playoff appearance and a 118-190 win-loss record.

His departure will leave a considerable hole for Golden State, with Atkinson having been an integral part of the 2022 championship along with the two seasons since. The Athletic's Anthony Slater reports that the Warriors may look to add two new assistants, providing an even greater assignment for the franchise amid a busy few weeks ahead.