Cleveland Cavaliers insider names ‘leader’ to become next head coach, 1 surprise candidate

Cleveland Cavaliers
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers made NBA news last week by firing head coach J.B. Bickerstaff after being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. While the Cavaliers coaching search just started, there is reportedly already a front-runner for the position.

As soon as the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, NBA rumors started surfacing about Bickerstaff’s future in Cleveland. As detailed by Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic, it was an unstable situation in Cleveland with Bickerstaff on the hot seat long before the decision was made to fire him.

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The Cavaliers joined the NBA coaching carousel late, with the Los Angeles Lakers deep into their search while the Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets and Phoenix Suns hired new coaches. However, it appears Cleveland made the move with someone already in mind.

According to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson is the leader to become the next Cavaliers coach. However, there is one other name to keep an eye on during the Cavaliers coaching search.

New York Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant has also reportedly emerged on the team’s coaching radar. Not only is he a very experienced assistant coach, but he has strong ties to All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.

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Bryant, who turns 39 in August, served as an assistant with the Utah Jazz from 2014-’20. He was there when Mitchell was drafted in 2017 and helped oversee his development in Utah. Bryant, a former point guard, joined the Knicks coaching staff in 2020 as Tom Thibodeau’s top assistant.

Atkinson, age 56, is well-regarded around the league. He took over a rebuilding Brooklyn Nets team in 2016, helping turn them from a 20-win club (2016-’17) to a 42-win team by his third season. He’s known for being a quality player development coach and after spending three seasons under Steve Kerr, seems poised for his second chance as an NBA head coach.

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