Adam Harrington

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.”

Nets Notes: Atkinson, Assistants, Free Agency

Kenny Atkinson’s obsessive focus on individual player development led to his contract extension, Michael Scotto of The Athletic reports. ESPN reported on Monday that the Nets head coach would receive an extension, which Scotto confirms. Brooklyn is in playoff contention after winning 20 and 28 games the last two seasons.

“He has done arguably as good of a job as any coach in the league when you look at his improvement each year,” swingman Joe Harris said. “Obviously, I’m again biased just because I’m around him day in and day out and I see his approach and his competitiveness, his toughness, what he’s preached to us has trickled down to each one of the guys. He embodies what we are as an organization. We’re obviously not getting to this point without a leader like that.”

We have more on the Nets:

  • Members of Atkinson’s staff received two-year extensions, Scotto tweets. Atkinson’s staff include Bret Brielmaier, Chris Fleming, Jordan Ott, Pablo Prigioni, Jacque Vaughn, Adam Harrington and Travon Bryant.
  • The Nets will be an attractive free agent destination even if their playoff bid comes up short, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Kyrie Irving will give them consideration, a source told Lewis. There’s also a general feeling that free agents respect what Brooklyn has built and the culture around the franchise. “We’ve competed and won enough games this year that they know that all we need is another All-Star, another dynamic player to take the franchise over the top,” forward Ed Davis told Lewis. “I think that’s what those top-tier free agents that’s what goes through their minds. That’s how they think.”
  • Allen Crabbe underwent knee surgery on Thursday, likely ending his disappointing season.

Coaching Notes: Wizards, Nets, Grizzlies

The Wizards announced today that the team has named Tony Brown, Sidney Lowe, Chad Iske, Mike Terpstra and Maz Trakh as assistants on head coach Scott Brooks’ staff. Eric Sebastian, director of coaching operations, and Kamran Sufi, advance scout, were also named by the team while David Adkins will stay on as the team’s director of player development, according to the press release.

The staff we have put together here in Washington is an impressive group of basketball minds with extensive coaching experience and knowledge of the game,” said Brooks. “I look forward to working alongside this versatile group every day in our quest to bring the best out of our players.

Here’s more of the latest from the NBA’s coaching ranks:

  • The Grizzlies announced via press release that the organization has hired Keith Smart and Adam Mazarei as assistant coaches on head coach David Fizdale’s staff. Smart spent the last two seasons working with Fizdale as an assistant coach for the Heat, while Mazarei was a player development assistant for Memphis the past three years.
  • The Nets officially announced their coaching staff for the 2016/17 season. Joining new head coach Kenny Atkinson’s staff as assistant coaches are Jacque Vaughn, Chris Fleming and Bret Brielmaier, Adam Harrington as assistant coach and director of player development, Jordan Ott as assistant coach and manager of advance scouting and Mike Batiste as player development assistant.
  • The Timberwolves are bringing in Brian Pauga to serve as player personnel director, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical tweets. Pauga previously worked with GM Scott Layden when both were members of the Spurs organization, Wojnarowski adds.