Mike D'Antoni identified as serious candidate as Charlotte Hornets begin interviews for coaching vacancy, sources say

The Charlotte Hornets are beginning to interview candidates for the franchise's head-coaching opening, including the possibility of a reunion for general manager Mitch Kupchak with ex-Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, sources told ESPN.

D'Antoni has been identified as a serious candidate early in the process, especially because of the possibility of pairing him with young point guard LaMelo Ball, sources said.

D'Antoni will meet with the Hornets along with several current assistant coaches whom Charlotte requested permission to speak to, including Golden State's Kenny Atkinson, Milwaukee's Darvin Ham and Dallas' Sean Sweeney, sources said. All three of those assistants are currently coaching in the playoffs.

Atkinson, 54, inherited a downtrodden Nets team and led it to the Eastern Conference playoffs in his third season in 2018-2019. He built a strong reputation in player development as both an assistant and head coach.

Ham has been a part of Mike Budenholzer's staffs with Milwaukee and Atlanta and been in serious consideration for several head-coaching jobs in recent years, including his current involvement with the Lakers' opening.

Sweeney is considered the architect of the Mavericks' surprising defense this season, and he worked with head coach Jason Kidd with both the Nets and Bucks. This is his first interview for a head-coaching job.

D'Antoni is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year and owns a 672-527 (.560) record in nearly 1,200 games over two decades with Denver, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles and Houston. He spent the past season as a coaching consultant for Willie Green and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Charlotte fired coach James Borrego, who led the Hornets to consecutive appearances in the play-in tournament and made improvements of 10-plus wins in consecutive seasons on the job.