Kenny Smith has been a fixture on TNT’s Inside the NBA since 1998. It would be almost impossible to imagine the 11-time Emmy Award-winning show without “the Jet”. That might change pretty soon, as rumors have Smith as a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at his former team, the Atlanta Hawks.
Kenny Smith could split from Shaq and Charles Barkley
The Atlanta Hawks are searching for a permanent head coach. After a 14-20 start to the season, the team fired Lloyd Pierce on March 1. Nate MacMillan is filling the position in the meantime.
The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner reports that Kenny Smith is among the leading candidates for the Hawks’ head coaching vacancy. According to Kirschner, Smith is “well-connected” with Trae Young, the Hawks’ one and only star player.
This would be an eyebrow-raising hire for multiple reasons. The first of which: Kenny Smith has zero experience as a coach at any level in basketball. After his NBA retirement, he went straight to television. However, according to Kirschner, his “name has been previously floated for other jobs across the league, including those in the front office.”
If Kenny Smith does get the Hawks coaching job, it would make for an awkward episode of Inside the NBA.
Smith has experience in Atlanta
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It’s easy to forget now that so many of us are used to the image of Kenny Smith as the straight man on Inside the NBA alongside Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. But before he debuted on the TNT program in 1998, Smith was quite the player, known for his three-point shooting accuracy.
In his 10 NBA seasons, Smith played for six different teams. In fact, he saw playing time for three different teams during his final season alone. As a player, he is most well-known for his role on the championship-winning Houston Rockets teams of the mid-1990s. His most famous moment was a clutch game-tying three-pointer which sent the first game of the 1995 NBA Finals into overtime, which the Rockets eventually won.
However, before any of that, Smith had a brief run with the Atlanta Hawks. Midway through the 1989-90 season, the Sacramento Kings traded him to Atlanta, where he saw playing time mostly from the bench. He played 33 games, but only started five, and the Hawks missed the playoffs.
The Jet is not the only candidate
Kenny Smith is not the only one linked to the Atlanta Hawks’ head coaching vacancy. Kirschner has also named former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups as a candidate for the position.
Unlike Smith, Billups actually does have some experience in coaching. Starting this season, he has served as an assistant on the Los Angeles Clippers’ coaching staff. Also unlike Smith, Billups has had no ties to the Atlanta Hawks organization in any way. He played for seven different teams in his 18-year NBA career. None of them were the Hawks.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.