Hornets entering NBA Draft with 2 first-round picks, no coach

Charlotte appeared in the Play-In tournament in the 2021-22 season.

CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets have two picks in the first round of Thursday night’s NBA draft — and there’s no head coach to facilitate those decisions.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan has resumed the search for the organization’s next coach after Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson abruptly resigned from a four-year contract to coach the team on Saturday.

Charlotte has 13th and 15th round one picks, and general manager Mitch Kupchak is expected to make the final decisions with input from Jordan. The team also has the 45th overall pick.

“Not having a head coach on the draft is unusual,” ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas said on a conference call. “You certainly like to think about what your head coach wants to do and how (the player) likes to play. But it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all, because most coaches have input, but they don’t make those decisions.”

Bilas said head coaches don’t spend as much time analyzing NBA draft prospects as GMs do.

“They might have one they like, but those decisions are often made by front office staff who spend all their time on talent acquisition,” Bilas said. “So it’s not a deathblow for the 13th and 15th that they don’t have a coach.”

Atkinson’s about-face stunned the Hornets and sent Jordan back into recruitment mode.

The former Brooklyn Nets head coach agreed to a deal with the Hornets on June 10 but never signed the contract because the Warriors were playing in the NBA Finals. Eight days later, after the Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in six games to win the NBA title, Atkinson notified the Hornets that he would not be coaching the team.

“We’re in a great place, we have great players, we live in a beautiful part of the country, Kenny has two kids – you know teenagers who really wanted to stay – and I think it’s a really difficult thing to try and do enduring a job in the middle of the finals without really getting a chance to relax,” Kerr told NBC Sports earlier this week at a parade celebrating the organization’s most recent championship. “I think as the finale progressed he just felt it, he felt like this wasn’t the best time for my family and I to go.”

It’s unclear if the Hornets will choose from people they’ve already interviewed, including 16-year-old veteran NBA coach Mike D’Antoni, or open the search to other candidates.

Charlotte did not have a preliminary press conference this week, as they usually have in the past, and the team have not publicly commented on their managerial search since the decision to fire James Borrego.

The team made strides this past season, winning 43 games with All-Star LaMelo Ball as a point guard. It came to an abrupt end, however, when Charlotte lost to the Atlanta Hawks by 29 points in the Play-In tournament.

The team has a lot of needs, most notably finding a big man who can score and serve as a rim protector.

Charlotte has a few potential trades – including Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and PJ Washington – who could potentially be part of a draft night deal.

One question the Hornets face is how badly they want to change their roster without a coach.

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