Nets Part Ways With Head Coach Kenny Atkinson

The Nets and head coach Kenny Atkinson have mutually agreed to part ways, the team announced today in a press release. Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn will take over as the club’s interim head coach.

“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,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. “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.”

Atkinson, who took over as the Nets’ head coach in 2016, went just 20-62 in his first season with the club, but has played a key role since then in guiding the rebuild in Brooklyn and turning the team into a playoff contender. His best season came in 2018/19, when he led the Nets to a 42-40 record and the No. 6 seed in the East. He had an overall record of 118-190 (.383) in nearly four full seasons.

Although the Nets have fallen a little short of expectations this season, that can be attributed in large part to the injuries to stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant has missed the entire 2019/20 campaign while recovering from an Achilles tear, while shoulder issues limited Irving to just 20 games. Brooklyn is still in position to make the playoffs, albeit with a modest 28-34 record.

Given the circumstances surrounding the team’s performance this season, it’s surprising that the Nets would feel motivated to make a change. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN says (via Twitter) that Atkinson and Marks had multiple conversations and sensed that the relationship had run its course and that an eventual change was inevitable. The two sides decided not to wait on that change, despite the fact that they maintain a close relationship, Woj adds.

As Wojnarowski notes in a separate tweet, Atkinson has shown that he’s comfortable and effective leading a rebuilding team, so he should be in high demand going forward as other lottery-bound clubs around the NBA seek new coaches of their own. One of those teams is also in New York, though it remains to be seen if Atkinson will emerge as a target for the Knicks this spring.

As for the Nets, while Vaughn is taking the head coaching reins in the interim, the team will presumably conduct a more expansive coaching search at season’s end. With Durant and Irving expected to be ready to go in the fall, Brooklyn figures to target a coach who can potentially lead a veteran squad to title contention, rather than one overseeing a rebuild.

Luke Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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49 thoughts on “Nets Part Ways With Head Coach Kenny Atkinson

  1. natsfan3437

    Is LeBron more of a coach killer or is Kyrie more of a team killer?

    Blame the guy who developed multiple unwanted prospects into good players instead of the prima-donna who can’t be happy for more than 15 games.

    • natsfan3437

      I have gained more and more respect for LeBron every single year that he is no longer with Kyrie Irving. It’s amazing that he kept him in check for years.

      • Michael Chaney

        I’m a Cavs fan and that’s true. I think you could argue that Kyrie’s ego got worse as he got better, so it’s possible that there wasn’t anything to “keep in check” at first. But I agree with your general point.

    • lebuck

      Yeah even the coach killer title for Lebron isn’t reasonable regardless of Kyrie. Look at Vogel, Lue and Spolestra. Yeah he had some initial beef with Spolestra but what player doesn’t have some beef with their coach and Spolestra was never forced out. People just look for a reason to hate greatness because they’re jealous.

    • amk3510

      Lebron the coach killer is a dumb narrative. Its funny how both the Lakers and Cavs got significantly better after firing their coaches. But hey im sure the Cavs regret making a coaching change that lead to a title or the Lakers deeply regret losing Luke Walton… You people are so clueless

      • natsfan3437

        I just put it up since it’s a narrative a lot of people still believe and those same people think Kyrie is just fine.

        LeBron gets crappy coaches fired. When he tried with Spo they said no because they knew what they had in him.

    • GABEPERKINS1

      Who did lebron really coach kill? Mike brown, Luke walton and davis blatt.. it wasn’t like he had Phil jackson or Popovich removed.. Brown got fired by lakers also.. Luke walton has a Kings team that went backwards from last year

    • rap4life

      You are talking about the sad sack Knicks , right ?
      If he’s a shi**y coach, they would over pay him

  2. DynamiteAdams

    This is suprising, I thought he was doing fine and I doubt they can find someone better before the playoffs. But I actually get this and I feel the Sixers should do the same.. just at the end of the season. In my mind there are 2 kinds of coaches: x and os coaches (Brad Steven’s, phil jackson) and culture settings coaches (Brett Brown, Mike malone, Mike Budenholzer). The best coaches are a mix of both. You need a culture settings coach to start a rebuild and empower young players to reach their potential. However I feel that after a certain point you reach a ceiling with a culture set coach especially if they don’t adapt in game like an a
    xs and os guy would. Most teams want to reward a coach for getting them to where they are but some coaches aren’t meant to land the plane, just get it off the ground.

  3. x%sure

    I can only guess that… Irving has someone in mind and leveraged? That Marks thinks another would keep Irving on the floor more often?
    Atkinson did overrate Taurean Prince, but that would not be enough. A mystery.

    • El Don

      Why would you blame Kyrie? Haven’t seen anywhere that he didn’t like the coach, also he played the best of his career for the team this year, just wouldn’t make sense that Kyrie is behind that.
      Maybe your question should be… ’bout time to get rid of him? Was he actually any good to lead a team in win now mode? He made quite a mess with his rotations.
      Kurucs & Musa should play more instead of TPW & Chandler, don’t like neither the way he shared the time between Allen & DJ, also Dinwiddie should have played a lot less when Kyrie was playing.

      • HoopsR

        Yeah I don’t think he had a problem with him either. Kyrie had full control of the offense when he was able to play. He would’ve been very outspoken about it, especially when he was so visibly disgruntled when playing under Brad S.

        • x%sure

          It would not have to be active sabotage. Marks may have wanted to see more respect from Irving, such that he would play through an issue rather than loiter and favor the hurt. He’s comparing Irving now with the level of commitment it takes to win a title. Tsai probably takes a dim view of Irving’s actions. There was probably talk of getting a firmer coach.

          Brett Brown and the Sixers may look like a cautionary tale of a coach that is too player-freindly.
          Jason Kidd is available, maybe they wanted to try to secure him.

          This is all conjecture; I did not expect this.

  4. hiflew

    They should fire the GM. The Nets were a team on the rise with a nice collection of young players that played well together and they decided to bust it up in favor of big names. It’s just a shame because I really enjoyed the Nets before this season.

    • Freddie Morales

      They have those same young guys with exception of DLo who is just not that good

      • hiflew

        All that’s left is Levert and Allen and both of them had to take a back seat to Kyrie when he was in there.

        DLo was an All Star last year. If that is “just not that good,” then are you of the opinion that only about 2% of the league is good? Besides my whole point was that the sum of the parts was greater than the individual players. DLo was much better as a Net than as a Laker or a Warrior. As a T-Wolf, that’s still up in the air.

  5. Jdog70

    That is a bad move by the Nets. Atkinson is going to have his pick of jobs. I’d like to see with the Kings. The Knicks job would be great drama.

  6. dynasty in boston

    Identity and culture of what exactly? Nets and 76ers are the Suns and Timberwolves of the East. Irrelevant.

    • Fartface Wilson

      The C’s are 2-5 against those irrelevant teams this season though.

      • Ya but methinks 3 of those teams would swap rosters & assets right now with the C’s and the 76ers would make it 4 if they knew what was good for them. None have done anything since the early 2000’s, C’s lone title and conf finals appearances trump all of them.

        • Fartface Wilson

          If you live in the past… sure. Like I said though this season the C’s have a losing record against those 2 teams.

  7. Been watching the Nets religiously since 2008 and I’d never felt more comfortable with the team’s culture (or how it seems from an outsider’s perspective), direction, and leadership. Atkinskon was constantly positive, refused to publically criticize players, and was not afraid to have tough conversations with any player on the team after they made a mental error on the court. I did get frustrated with the many 4th quarter collapses, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. This dude was a leader, and I’m super sad and confused about this. I hope he lands in a good spot and has success there.

  8. HoopsR

    This feels like a grass is greener move. Maybe they have someone in mind already for the offseason and want to make things ready for them or get ahead of it. The timing feels like they’re very sure with the choice and have something planned…if not wtf..

    • Jason Lancaster

      I think this take is the correct one. There’s really no other explanation… Letting go of a coach now doesn’t make sense unless you want to get first dibs on an up and coming assistant coach or soon to be fired coach or something.

  9. Not sure that Kyrie is the vocal point behind this, I can def see A GM and a coach not clicking like they thought and cutting ties. Kyrie killed the Celtics in a developmental sense, but certainly wasnt the barrier to any reasonable title aspirations. Certainly didn’t kill Brad Stevens.

    But this guy Atkison has some legit value from real results and overproduction. Couldn’t have waited till the end of the season and maybe try to trade him? At least get a couple 2nds or rights to a player or something? And of course i could see any of the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, maybe Wizards (future) or magic actually relinquishing a 1st in a trade.

    Still youd like to think a gm could look past disagreements in approach when the coach is extracting above norm value from his roster and and overachieving. Guys like Atkison help get you guys like dinwiddie, harris, and prince. Pieces you can move for Draft capita or to package with better assets for a bigger fish. I bet someone would throw a couple firsts for dinwiddie.

  10. Stoop Down Low

    The day after they blow out the Spurs? This is strange, indeed. I’ve never heard or read a bad word about Kenny from players. Quite the opposite, they sing his praises loudly and he was presumably part of the package that enticed Durant and Irving. Really strange move. Not that he’s the only good coach out there, but did Sean Marks and Joe Tsai really expect more of this group of reclamation projects? Might be a Joe Tsai move since he’s the new face at the table. Joe is entitled to the coach he wants for his money but firing Kenny now makes zero sense from the outside.

    • I was just thinking it might’ve been a thing like Joe Tsai watching the games and being like, “This team has been playing horrible. I want something new.” And I’ve been just as frustrated with the team’s performance over the past month (other than last night), but it definitely seems like a move that comes from a lack of perspective, and that would make sense if it was the new ownership making demands. It’s still a terrible move, and horrible for Kenny Atkinson and what he’s done for the organization. I’m willing to bet the players are angry about this.

  11. Natergater77

    Everyone is blaming Kyrie, but anyone think KD? Maybe he wants them to go after Scotty Brooks?

  12. formerlyz

    Well, the culture they’ve built has really shined through this year….lol

  13. GABEPERKINS1

    What is with New York teams being run in ground.. this guy turned a total barren team into playoff team.. team with no draft picks for many years.. had to develop castoffs and buy 2nd rounders. This was a team looking for next year to really contend.. just stupid

  14. harden-westbrook-mvps

    He must be so happy to get out of Brooklyn, that team is a disaster waiting to happen. Even after they get back KD, who will no longer be an MVP-caliber player after his injury.

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