Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn Nets announced Saturday morning that the two parties were “mutually” parting ways.
Coming on the heels of a 19-point victory over the San Antonio Spurs, this move is something of a surprise. The Nets, who despite a below-.500 record currently hold the 7-seed, are in the middle of a playoff race. They are trying to fend off the Orlando Magic, in order to avoid a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The move was announced via a statement by Brooklyn’s general manager, Sean Marks.
“After discussions with Kenny about the progress of the season, we mutually agreed that a coaching change would be in the best interest of the team,” said Marks.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, however the organization believes it is one that is necessary at this time. Kenny was instrumental in developing our players and building the identity and culture we have become known for over these past four seasons. The foundation he helped put into place here is one that we will continue to build on in the coming seasons.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski beat the Nets’ statement by minutes on Saturday morning. He made the announcement via his Twitter account.
On SportsCenter, Wojnarowksi explained that this move had been in the works for some time. He also went on on to say that Brooklyn’s big stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are most assuredly to have a voice in who the next coach of the Nets will be.
This will be one of the most coveted coaching positions in recent memory, considering what the roster next season. Durant is expected to be fully healed from his Achilles injury suffered during the NBA Finals last June. And Irving, who did play in 20 games for Brooklyn this season, should be back from his shoulder surgery.
Injuries have ravaged the Nets this season, which adds the the surprising nature of the move. Atkinson was without Durant for the entire season, and Irving played in only 20 games.
Kenny Atkinson’s Career
Kenny Atkinson leaves Brooklyn after almost four seasons with a 118-190 record. The team spent much of the time under Atkinson in a rebuilding mode in the wake of disastrous trades for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett crippled the franchise.
Atkinson managed to lead a rag-tag group of Nets to the playoffs in 2018-2019. The team finished with a 42-40 record that year. It was their first playoff appearance in four seasons, but they lost in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Originally from Long Island, Kenny Atkinson started his NBA coaching career as an assistant with the New York Knicks from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, he moved to Atlanta. He served as a Hawks assistant for three season before landing the top job in Brooklyn.
Ironically, the New York Knicks will be in the market for a new head coach this offseason. So Atkinson may not need to go very far, considering his experience with rebuilding.
Jacque Vaughn replaces Atkinson as the head coach in Brooklyn for the time being. Vaughn has previous coaching experience with a three-year stint as head coach in Orlando. He complied a 58-158 record over that span.
Vaughn played in the NBA for 12 season after starring at the University of Kansas. He was part of San Antonio’s 2007 NBA championship team.