The Brooklyn Nets announced on Saturday morning that they have parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson after nearly four seasons.
“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,” general manager Sean Marks said. “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. We are forever grateful for all of Kenny’s hard work and dedication to the Nets and the Brooklyn community.”
Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn will act as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2019-20 season for the 28-34 Nets.
Atkinson is responsible for helping lead the Nets out of one of their darkest periods in franchise history, taking over for a franchise that was gutted by the 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry.
Taking over a 21-win team from 2015-16 under Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown, Atkinson won just 20 and 28 games in his first two seasons.
Last season, however, saw Atkinson develop D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie into a viable backcourt. Russell became an All-Star after being written off by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets went 42-40 to make an improbable trip to the postseason.
Atkinson was poised to see even more success this season with the Nets after the team acquired Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in July. As a byproduct of the Durant signing, the Nets sent Russell to the Golden State Warriors where Irving would step in his position.
But Durant is sidelined for the season while he recovers from a ruptured Achilles while Irving appeared in just 20 games after shoulder injuries led to season-ending surgery this week.
Without the two All-Stars brought in to bring Brooklyn to the next level, the Nets are struggling to stay near the .500 mark despite holding the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
According to Nets Daily’s Anthony Puccio, “some players” wanted Atkinson out, which led to the organization’s decision. It remains to be seen which players shared those beliefs.
Now, the 52-year-old Long Island native should be a hot commodity on the NBA’s head-coaching market this summer. Given his local roots, he immediately could become a contender for the Knicks’ looming head-coaching vacancy as interim boss Mike Miller is not expected to get the permanent job.