The Nets filled their head coaching vacancy this afternoon, hiring Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson to lead the team. Atkinson has been the top assistant to Mike Budenholzer for the past two seasons, and Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical writes that league executives consider Atkinson most ready to become a head coach among current assistants.
Atkinson is in his fourth year with the Hawks. Prior to that, he served as an assistant with the Knicks from 2008-2012 and spent 2007/08 as director of player development for the Rockets. Beyond his experience, he is known for a positive, optimistic personality that should serve him well as he starts the rebuilding job in Brooklyn.
The Nets had been negotiating with Atkinson for several days, but they also talked to other high-profile candidates. Former NBA coaches Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Vinny Del Negro were all rumored candidates for the job, along with Warriors assistant Luke Walton, Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney and Spurs assistant Ime Udoka. Also reportedly in the mix was current Sixers head coach Brett Brown, who may not be brought back to Philadelphia next season. It’s not known how much consideration was given to interim coach Tony Brown or what his future in Brooklyn might be.
The Nets’ road back to contention might be more daunting than any other team’s. Brooklyn finished 21-61 this season, a drop of 17 wins from last year. Trades have left the Nets low on draft picks, as the franchise won’t have a first-rounder this year or in 2018 and will probably have to swap picks with the Celtics next season. Brooklyn has about $56.66MM committed in salary for 2016/17, meaning the Nets will have a little more than $35MM to offer free agents if the salary cap is set at $92MM as expected. That number could be higher if Wayne Ellington, Thomas Robinson and Shane Larkin decide to opt out of their current deals.
That brings us to tonight’s question: Considering the state of the franchise, did the Nets hire the right coach? Was picking a top assistant the best strategy, or would Brooklyn have benefited from the instant credibility of someone with head coaching experience? Also, do you expect ownership to be patient with the 48-year-old Atkinson and 40-year-old general manager Sean Marks, or is Mikhail Prokhorov going to panic if his team keeps losing?
Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the topic. We look forward to what you have to say.