The Latest On Kenny Atkinson

Kenny Atkinson‘s surprising departure as coach of the Nets on Saturday may have been instigated by his players, but it was a mutual decision, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Sources tell Lewis that Kyrie Irving bears much of the responsibility for the move, but Atkinson has understood for months that a change might be necessary.

“Kenny and I had these pretty frank conversations. And it wasn’t last night, 24 hours; there wasn’t one game,” general manager Sean Marks said. “This was a culmination of events over the course of the year. Kenny’s brutally honest, and the humility he showed to admit ‘My voice is not what it once was here. It’s time.’ This is a compromise that Kenny and I and ownership came up with; it was time. Kenny grinded and did everything he could, but it was time for another voice in that locker room, and it’s our job to find it.”

Marks and owner Joe Tsai gave Atkinson credit for helping to turn around a franchise that was among the league’s worst when he took over in 2016. He has the Nets on track for their second straight playoff appearance, but what the organization wants in a coach apparently shifted after last summer’s free agency bonanza that brought in Irving and Kevin Durant. Neither of them offered comment on Atkinson’s departure, but the players who did insist that they weren’t involved in the decision.

“I absolutely [had] no ‘Fire Kenny’ conversations with Sean, so I don’t know, not a part of that,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “It’s not like I called Joe on the phone and was like, ‘Hey you making any moves?’ I like to think we’re cool, but not that cool.”

Lewis adds that one of the first actions from interim coach Jacque Vaughn was to talk to Irving and other players about what changes they would like to see.

“It’s a service business. I’m serving these guys. I’m just a vessel,” Vaughn said. “It’s today’s game and being able to adjust to that, getting the most out of talent on your roster, but also listening and hearing the voices of the No. 1, 2, 3, 4 guys on your roster. It’s crucial, and having that relationship is a must in today’s game.”

There’s more fallout from this season’s most surprising coaching change:

  • Irving would like to see the Nets hire Tyronn Lue, his former head coach in Cleveland, reports Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Currently an assistant with the Clippers, Lue took the Cavaliers to three straight NBA Finals, including two with Irving as his point guard. Irving didn’t like Atkinson’s “rigid” coaching methods and clashed with him almost immediately, sources tell Goodwill. Multiple sources also say Atkinson didn’t mesh with his two new stars and wasn’t looking forward to coaching them next season when both will presumably be healthy. “Oh, it was definitely mutual,” a league source said.
  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic talked to sources around the league and compiled a list of candidates to potentially become the Nets’ next head coach. Vaughn’s name is on the list along with some familiar candidates such as Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson and former Nets star Jason Kidd. A few possibilities without head coaching experience are Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, Brian Keefe and Adam Harrington.
  • Atkinson may be the perfect choice to take over the cross-town Knicks, suggests Greg Joyce of The New York Post. New York is trying to rebuild with a collection of unproven young talent, much like Brooklyn was when Atkinson was hired there, and he is represented by Creative Artists Agency, which was run by new Knicks president Leon Rose“It seems like he’s very well respected within players, within the league — players he coached and players he didn’t coach,” said Knicks forward Julius Randle. “I know I respected him.”
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30 thoughts on “The Latest On Kenny Atkinson

  1. Buckman

    Congrats to Brooklyn for allowing one of the worst team chemistry guys in the NBA to call the shots.

  2. Jason Lancaster

    This is a star driven league, but usually teams try to hide that fact.

    Irving and Durant are both responsible here, and they’ll enjoy some blame if the next coach isn’t good. But still, Atkinson wanted out because he’s got another deal. Maybe Cleveland, maybe NY, but he’s got something… And Brooklyn has a plan too I’m sure. If they’re not interested in D’Antoni I’ll be surprised.

    • Buckman

      D’Antoni is intriguing but DeAndre Jordan does not fit the small ball strategy to well nor does Allen since neither can shoot the 3. I like the rest of their roster though.

    • dynasty in boston

      Atkinson has another deal? I guess that means all’s well in your myopic utopia. These two players should be sent on a very slow boat to China.

  3. acarneglia

    I wouldn’t be shocked if Poppovich ends up retiring this offseason and Atkinson replaces him in SA

    • Buckman

      I would be about the 2nd part of your comment. I thought TD was being groomed.

      • Michael Chaney

        Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina (if he came back to the NBA) would be fits if Pop retired too

      • CobiEven

        TD does not want to be a head coach. I do see Becky getting the Job when Pop retires.

  4. Lefty_Orioles_Fan

    Sixers should fire Brett Brown Brown and force the Nets to hire him. That would fix everything!

  5. MillMill12

    New owner, new stars and Vaughn saying you have to hear you 1,2,3 players on the team. Lol. Kyrie and are both trash. Hope Mark Jackson gets the gig. But if Kyrie wants Lue…

  6. ZacharyH

    “oh it was definitely mutual.” Atkinson got the chills from Irving and Durant’s passive aggressive egos. Time to move on.

  7. Skip, Tampa

    KD and Irving are dead silent on firing. Tells you all you need to know. New coach already sucking up. Mark’s just being a parrot for the owner.
    Nets have taken a serious nose dive this year for top to bottom in quality. To bad, was really impressed by them last year.

  8. parkers

    Irving rides again. Tried his best to get rid of Brad Stevens last year, while planting a bomb in their locker room. But try try again, have to give him credit for persistence. Of course Nets had to sign a super star no matter what the past looked like.

    When are teams going to value character as important as talent?

    • Rocket32

      parkers Probably never in any sport. Having star level talent is more important then character in every sport. I don’t think that’s ever gonna change.

      • jonl

        I agree, but the problem with the Nets situation is Kyrie’s not a star level talent. Durant certainly is, but not Kyrie..

  9. parkers

    Sick and tired of basketball people making comments about social or political issues. If they want to educate me about basketball I’m all ears. But please understand I don’t care what you think about anything else. I am 100% sure you don’t care what I think either.

  10. RudyR

    Atkinson was the best asset of the whole franchise. This situation is arguably worse than the Pierce/Garnett magic beans trade.

    The Nets roster is not talented, people look at box scores and judge NBA players off empty stats. Atkinson took a low end roster and made it into semi competitive lower tier playoff team.

    This roster won’t win more than 45 games next year and is much more likely to win 35 games even with Kyrie and KD. They will be even worse the more Kyrie plays.

    The Nets won’t win a playoff series again before 2025.

  11. RudyR

    also I wish people would stop talking about Deandre Jordan like he is still a guy that matters. He’s an adequate bench big man in a league where bigs barely even matter anymore.

    The idea that Kyrie thought of Jordan and Garett Temple as being pieces of fantasy championship puzzle shows how deranged he is.

    Kyrie reminds me of the Twilight Zone where the little kid can control the world with his mind so adults have to kiss his ass to avoid being killed in a temper tantrum.

  12. El Don

    Is Kenny Atkinson that good, really? He just got a bunch of guys to play hard, no much value on that. But this year he had a better team & he did worst. Kyrie played little, but the best of his career. When you have superstars you cannot boss them around like college kids, that is why I think he failed.
    Anyway I never thought much of him or Brad Stevens for that matter they have done ok, but never gone beyond what you could expect of the teams they had, they just have done ok.
    But for some reason people overvalues them, with time hopefully people will se that Atkinson/Stevens are just average HC’s.

    • Michael Chaney

      Atkinson is a good coach who gets guys to play for him but also does well at developing players. The Nets have done a great job at developing unheralded players over the past few years, with Joe Harris being just one of them.

      If Kyrie is playing the best of his career, then you can’t really blame Atkinson for the team not winning. If Kyrie puts up empty stats every night, that’s more of an indictment on him as a team player than it necessarily is of Atkinson as a coach.

      And any evidence of Brad Stevens being a good coach can be found by watching the Celtics this year. They’re a really dangerous and well-coached team, and it’s only after Kyrie left that they got to that point. Maybe Kyrie is the problem?

  13. Tazza

    Hope Kenny Atkinson takes over from Bruce Brown with the Sixers.
    Look at the improvement he got from D Loading, Dinwiddie and LeVert. How he turned that team around and installed a winning mentality to that group.

    Hopefully he could get the best out of those players and install a better winning mindset in that group.
    We are very solid at home 28-2 (1st in the league) but terrible on the road 10-24 (23rd in the league). Say we manage to turn that road record into 15-19 (5 more wins) then we are, by record a top 5 team in the league.

    Atkinson – Sixers
    Lue – Nets
    Brown – Knicks
    Jackson – Hawks

  14. x%sure

    So apparently Atkinson + Irving was never going to happen from the start. Maybe the coach should have been informed.
    This way accusations would not resonate forward, like they probably will now.

  15. x%sure

    Dinwiddie was like a police suspect with his denials. He would be good to ask though. I dislike how people think he was a nothing because Stan VanGundy in Detroit did not like him. Dins has been good for 4 years now, ever since he started getting some PT, and doesn’t just try to advance or develop himself; he gets big pictures.

    But I suspect “the corner of the lockerroom” coach could not reach was just Irving. Durant can be pretty casual and had mentioned Atkinson as a reason to sign there.

    Writer Lewis in the link disagrees:
    “Reality says the players got him fired, by ineffectiveness or insurrection.”
    When people stick together and won’t talk, just quote reality, a harsh judge who can say anything you want him to.

  16. Stoop Down Low

    Joe Tsai is making all the calls and made this call. Sean is an operative who takes the hits and the questions while the owner sends out a tweet. Ho hum, corporate life. Kenny still gets paid and will be in demand. Maybe you can criticize Kenny for prioritizing development over wins but that always seemed like the plan. Until it wasn’t. Now the Nets are setting up to be Lakers East, with Durant playing the role of LeBron (with video crew in tow), and Kyrie the misunderstood, oft-injured superstar who’s come back to NYC to seek a title. A club like that will need the right person in the head coach’s role, not the earnest, hard working real coach they already had. They need someone who’ll fill the seats, get some excitement going. Auditions not open to the public.

  17. parkers

    The trouble with professional sports has been the fact that players are now in charge of the areas that management used to run.

    Players not only have free agency rights but can now bring other free agents with them. If they don’t like the coach, for whatever reason they can have him removed.
    The teams have sold their souls to a system that show cases celebrities.

    Few stars truly want to be coached by people who have not come close to their accomplishments. They are captivated by their press clippings and celebrity status.

    Along comes Kenny Atkinson, who has made his reputation from developing players who have been previously regarded as strictly role players. He works his butt off in taking them and melding them into a culture of team first types. Under his leadership almost every player made great strides personally and the team was able to finally find some success as an over achieving group last year.

    But they choose to bring in some eight or nine new players rather then slowly augment what they had. They included one player that carried baggage of having disrupted a developing locker room. Another who is coming off of a major foot injury and might not be able to achieve the level previously reached. Followed by a group of role players who were lifers In the league.

    Probably the worst situation is how it has affected their cap. They are locked in to where making further moves will be a lot more difficult.

    I am confident Kenny will find a job as quickly as he wants to. Unfortunately his type of coach will only be used till the need for a high profile replacement, who can compete with his star players with his press clippings, comes along.

    Winning at all costs is like a drug that has replaced winning by having each player grow into a solid team achievement. Most markets, with their quest to maximize profits, have sold out to the quick fix. Therefore part of enjoyment of incremental success has been removed and replaced by the quest for instant gratification.

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