Warriors spend big on coaches to end two-year playoff drought


Warriors determined to make playoffs, spend big on assistants originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

After back-to-back unsatisfying seasons, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob is going back to the playbook that served him so well upon taking over the franchise in 2010.

Scour the globe in search of very qualified individuals and then show them the wallet.

That’s how the Warriors brought in Jerry West and Rick Welts, both in the Hall of Fame.

That’s why, upon hiring Steve Kerr as head coach without previous experience, Lacob willingly paid whatever it took to bring in veteran assistants Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams.

This blueprint is being unrolled once again as the Warriors fill in the staff that will operate with Kerr next season. It’s a new set of voices, strong-willed and heavy on experience at the national and international levels.

Former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, with 17 years of experience, the last 13 in the NBA, is leaving his position as assistant to Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue to join Kerr and returning assistant Mike Brown on the front of the Golden State bench. The move is not yet official, according to league sources contacted Wednesday, but there is agreement.

Former Raptors assistant Jama Mahlalela, with 16 years of experience, including nine in the NBA, already has been hired by the Warriors, according to league sources. The move has not yet been announced. He’ll work in the player development area.

Dejan Milojević followed a 15-year playing career in Europe with 10 seasons as a head coach. In June, six months after signing a multiple-year contact as head coach of Budućnost VOLI in Montenegro, Milojević exercised an out clause in his contract to join the Warriors in a player-development role. It’s expected that he will focus on 20-year-old center James Wiseman.

Average age: 46.3 years old. Atkinson is 54, Milojević is 44 and Mahlalela is 41. There is no doubt the salaries of the new coaches exceed those of departed coaches Jarron Collins, Theo Robertson and Luke Loucks, whose average age is 10 years younger.

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It was clear last season that Golden State’s player-development staff, nearly all under age 35, encountered a few bumps. Though all were considered capable coaches, there were, according to sources, a few spasms of immaturity. It was enough that Kerr decided to make experience a premium, across the board.

Kerr sought another assistant who had been a head coach and interviewed several, including former Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, before deciding on Atkinson.

Known for his ability to coach offense, Atkinson’s philosophies are similar to those of Kerr. Lots of ball movement, player motion and loads of energy. He did a solid job in Brooklyn, particularly in his first three seasons, but his communication style reportedly clashed with incoming All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, leading to Atkinson’s departure one week before the NBA shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Which version of Klay will Warriors get after Achilles injury?

It is believed that the hires complete Kerr’s staff for the 2021-22 season. 

The player payroll will be high, back in the luxury tax zone. The coaching staff salaries have gone up because Lacob and the front office are determined to at least approach the standard set when the Warriors made five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

If it takes a few dollars more to get there, so be it.

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