In an in-depth story for The Athletic, Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer take a closer look at Kenny Atkinson‘s final days in Brooklyn, detailing how the Nets ultimately came to the decision to part ways with their head coach.
As Charania and Schiffer explain, a team meeting following last Wednesday’s blowout home loss to Memphis was an inciting event. During that “spirited” session, people in the room aired their grievances, with Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan among the players who were called out. Perhaps most importantly, Kevin Durant suggested that the Nets must improve certain habits and that they weren’t building the sort of culture traits that a legit title contender has.
According to The Athletic’s report, no directive from Kyrie Irving or Durant was ever given to replace Atkinson, but the Nets’ two new stars “never connected” with the incumbent head coach and there was a growing belief they weren’t interested in playing for him next season. A handful of other players were also believed to have started “disconnecting” with Atkinson, per Charania and Schiffer.
In Wednesday’s meeting, players didn’t hold back on critiquing Atkinson’s coaching style, expressing their “growing displeasure” with his communication tactics. Charania and Schiffer write that the aftermath of that meeting could have gone one of two ways. Atkinson could have become more motivated to fix those issues players had — however, sources tell The Athletic that the head coach instead came out of that session “dejected” and not wanting to let anyone “dictate his job.” He began to talk about leaving the job on his own terms, if necessary.
Atkinson and GM Sean Marks ultimately made the final decision to part ways late on Friday night and into Saturday morning, according to The Athletic.
Here’s more on the Nets and their coaching change:
- Nets center DeAndre Jordan took exception to the idea of blaming Durant and Irving for Atkinson’s departure, calling those reports “bullsh–,” as Peter Botte of The New York Post writes. “I’m close with Kyrie, but Wilson (Chandler) is a new player, Garrett Temple’s a new player. We’re all new players,” Jordan said. “So if you’re going to say new players, put it on all eight of the new players.” Jordan added that he was “shocked” by the news, adding that Atkinson “did a great job with us.”
- For what it’s worth, the Athletic report from Charania and Schiffer suggested that Jordan was among the players to express frustration to Atkinson last week, with sources indicating there had been a “season-long tension” relating to the coach’s decision not to start Jordan over Jarrett Allen. In Brooklyn’s first game under Jacque Vaughn, Jordan entered the starting lineup, signaling the “beginning of the end of the old Nets,” writes Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News.
- Marc Berman of The New York Post explores whether Mark Jackson – who is expected to be a candidate for the Knicks‘ head coaching job this spring – may also be on the Nets’ list of targets, given Rich Kleiman‘s fondness for the former Warriors head coach.
- As for Atkinson’s next move, one source with knowledge of the situation who spoke to Charania and Schiffer is confident that the former Brooklyn head coach won’t be out of work for long if he doesn’t want to be. “Kenny will be back coaching soon,” the source said. “He works too hard. Works his ass off. He will probably take the time away and replay the scenarios and relationships that went wrong — and come back stronger for the job he wants.”