Kenny Atkinson Is Out as Nets Head Coach

Written by on March 7, 2020

Kenny Atkinson will now not be the pinnacle coach of the Nets after he and the staff “mutually agreed to half methods,” the staff abruptly introduced on Saturday. Jacque Vaughn, an assistant, will function interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

“It’s time for an additional voice within the locker room,” Sean Marks, the overall supervisor of the Nets, stated at a information convention on Saturday afternoon. “It’s time that we each half methods.”

The announcement, which first got here by means of a press release in Marks’s title on Saturday morning, was beautiful, particularly given the accidents the staff has endured this yr. The Nets are the No. 7 seed within the Jap Convention though their report is simply 28-34 with 20 video games to go till the playoffs. Marks, on the information convention, was complimentary of Atkinson and stated that he was “eternally grateful for what he’s carried out” however added, “I feel now we have each come to appreciate that it had ran its course right here.”

Marks was imprecise about what went incorrect and why Atkinson was not given the possibility to maintain teaching till Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the staff’s two finest gamers, have been capable of take the courtroom collectively. Each have been signed within the low season, however Durant has not performed in any respect and Irving has missed a lot of the season due to their accidents.

“I’d have beloved to have seen him coach these guys,” Marks stated. “There’s no query at that. However the state of affairs and circumstances of the place we’re at right this moment, we’re attempting to take this program from the place we are actually to a different stage.”

Marks stated discussions about Atkinson’s future had been occurring for months, however he wouldn’t elaborate.

“What occurs within the locker room, I’d prefer to assume, stays in there,” he stated. “I’d love to offer specifics and granular on all completely different sorts of issues. However on the finish of the day, it is a compromise that Kenny and I and possession got here up with.”

Atkinson gave a “brutally sincere” evaluation of himself, in line with Marks, and stated that his “voice was not what it as soon as was” within the locker room. Marks tried to tamp down hypothesis that Durant and Irving had pushed Atkinson out.

“This was a call that wasn’t even about Kevin and Kyrie, Caris, Joe, Spencer,” Marks stated, referring to Durant, Irving, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie. He stated the gamers had been instructed this morning about Atkinson’s departure.

Earlier than the information convention, Joe Tsai, the proprietor of the Nets, posted a message on Twitter: “I’m extraordinarily grateful to Kenny Atkinson for what he’s carried out for our franchise over time. If we didn’t have him, we’d not be the place we’re with promising younger guys nonetheless enhancing.”

This was Atkinson’s fourth yr because the Nets’ coach, and in his tenure, he had acquired plaudits for taking advantage of the roster and creating younger expertise. In his first three seasons, the Nets’ win totals rose annually, culminating in a 42-40 report and playoff berth final yr. Atkinson’s report of 118-190 makes him the franchise’s fourth-winningest coach.

This season has been troublesome, although that had been considerably anticipated. Durant is predicted to overlook the entire yr due to a torn Achilles’ tendon; Irving has missed most of it due to an injured shoulder. LeVert, one of many league’s up-and-coming gamers, missed nearly two months due to an injured thumb.

Marks and Atkinson, each first-timers of their jobs, had built a Nets team that rose from the cellar of the N.B.A. to an surprising playoff run final yr — all with out a bona fide perennial All-Star. As a substitute of tanking for a better draft decide, the Nets squeezed out every win they could as they preached accountability and energy.

In his assertion on Saturday, Marks stated Atkinson was “instrumental in creating our gamers and constructing the id and tradition now we have grow to be recognized for over these previous 4 seasons.”

Requested whether or not he was involved with what Atkinson’s departure would imply for the franchise’s tradition, Marks stated: “Kenny is definitely one piece, and a really large piece, driving our tradition for the final 4 years. Little question, no denying that. What I’m happy with is, you understand, now we have 65 basketball teaching workers driving tradition. There’s a training workers. A efficiency workers. Analytics group. The gamers. And these guys are all going to drive the tradition.”

A number of Nets gamers expressed shock on the information on the staff’s coaching middle on Saturday.

“Clearly, it hurts,” stated LeVert, who has spent his entire profession taking part in for Atkinson. “It’s a part of the enterprise. This a part of the enterprise sucks.”

“I feel, for the blokes which were right here for the previous couple of years with him, you’re upset,” stated Harris, a swingman who got here into his personal beneath Atkinson. “You discovered rather a lot. It’s additionally a kind of issues the place you’re grateful for the time, the chance that you simply had with him. All of us beloved taking part in for Kenny.”

Final yr’s staff was larger than the sum of its components. It was routinely aggressive due to its above-average protection even when outmatched in expertise. Atkinson wouldn’t hesitate to bench his finest participant, D’Angelo Russell, if he didn’t like his effort. One among that staff’s most rousing wins was a comeback towards the Sacramento Kings in March after being down 28 factors within the second half. Within the first spherical of the playoffs, the Nets even gained a recreation towards the closely favored Philadelphia 76ers.

Gamers on different groups observed the hard-nosed play. On a podcast in October, Durant stated, “They’ve acquired the championship mind-set already.”

However this season acquired off to a tough begin because the Nets opened 4-7. Irving, nevertheless, put collectively a number of dazzling performances, giving many followers hope that the staff may thrive even because it awaited Durant’s return from harm. There have been indicators of strife, nevertheless, because the season progressed. After a January loss to the 76ers, Irving stated that the deficiencies within the Nets roster have been “evident” and that the staff wanted “one more piece or two more pieces.

Irving would play in simply six video games after that — bringing him to 20 for the season — earlier than he was dominated out for the remainder of the yr due to his shoulder harm. He had surgical procedure on Tuesday.

That night time, the Nets got here again from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Boston Celtics on the highway, a recreation during which LeVert scored 51 factors. Atkinson’s departure 4 days later got here hours after a 19-point victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

The transfer is the newest shock in an particularly tumultuous yr for New York basketball. Earlier than the season, each the Knicks and the Nets overturned their rosters with the hope of serious enchancment. As a substitute, every staff has fired its head coach — the Knicks parted methods with their president, Steve Mills, as effectively — and is within the midst of disappointing seasons. The Knicks, at 19-44, have little probability of creating the playoffs, although the Nets might be able to.

Earlier than becoming a member of the Nets, Atkinson was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks beneath Mike Budenholzer, who’s now the pinnacle coach of the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks. Atkinson was additionally a Knicks assistant from 2008 to 2012.

Vaughn, who now takes over the Nets, was a reserve in the N.B.A. for 12 years, together with two seasons with the Nets, earlier than retiring in 2009. He was head coach of the Orlando Magic from 2012 to 2015. He compiled a 58-158 report and was fired in his third season. Vaughn joined the Nets workers the next year as an assistant.

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