Key Warriors assistant in line for pressure cooker job at pacific rival

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets / Tim Warner/GettyImages

Change will be inevitable for the Golden State Warriors this offseason, and that could extend to the coaching staff as a number of vacancies begin to present themselves at rival teams.

The latest of those is the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching role after Darvin Ham was officially fired on Friday, that despite making the playoffs again following last season's trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Golden State Warriors' assistant coach Kenny Atkinson is a candidate to replace Darvin Ham as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

Warriors' assistant coach Kenny Atkinson was listed among four candidates who could be in line to replace Ham, with The Athletic's Jovan Buha also identifying Mike Budenholzer, JJ Redick and despite being contracted, LA Clippers head coach Ty Lue.

Atkinson has spent three seasons with Golden State after 308 games as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets and one year with the Clippers as an assistant under Lue. The 56-year-old has interviewed for various senior coaching roles during the past couple of seasons, including sensationally backflipping on the Charlotte Hornets after initally accepting the top job following the 2021-22 season. Atkinson was also a lead candidate for the Houston Rockets in their coaching search last offseason, before that eventually fell to Ime Udoka.

While Atkinson would be undoubtedly eager to return to a head coaching role, taking on the responsibility at the Lakers brings a pressure cooker environment perhaps unseen at any other team around the league.

In fairness, any LeBron James-led team has always brought incredible scrutiny on the head coach and things will be no difference as the four-time MVP prepares for Year 22 in the league next season. James' own future is up in the air given he can opt out of his $51.4 million player option, but he'll likely retain significant influence on who replaces Ham in the job.

It appears Atkinson would need to wait at least a couple more seasons to get the top role with the Warriors. After speculation on his future early in the season, four-time championship-winning coach Steve Kerr re-signed with the franchise on an historic two-year, $35 million contract.