After coaching the Brooklyn Nets through the toughest parts of the rebuild, Kenny Atkinson is looking for his next project.
The Brooklyn Nets shocked the NBA world on Saturday when they “mutually agreed to part ways” with head coach Kenny Atkinson. Many immediately pointed to Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan to explain the sudden change.
However, it sounds like Atkinson wanted the change just as much as the players.
“Kenny pushed for the parting just as much, if not more than Brooklyn,” a league source told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
The head coach compiled a record of 118-190 in just under four seasons with the Nets. The peak of his tenure came during the 2018-19 season when he led Brooklyn to the playoffs unexpectedly. That success was the part of the reason why the Nets were able to recruit the likes of Durant and Irving.
But Brooklyn’s up-and-down year hasn’t had the same magic that pushed the Nets to the six-seed in the Eastern Conference in 2019. Although injuries have played a major part in the disappointment, Brooklyn has lost a handful of heartbreaking games recently.
What’s next for Kenny Atkinson?
Atkinson is going to be one of the hottest coaches on the market this offseason. Although things ended poorly with the Nets, he has a proven track record of player development. Certainly, a rebuilding team will feel comfortable with Atkinson at the helm.
Is it possible that the ousted could head across the Brooklyn Bridge and take over the rebuilding squad that calls Madison Square Garden home? It would make sense for both sides.
Atkinson was an assistant for the New York Knicks from 2008-2012 so he’s familiar with the organization. He was a crucial part of Jeremy Lin’s development. Without Atkinson, Linsanity may never have happened.
And there’s the rub with the Long Island native. He’s had major success with developing point guards during his career. Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell both saw career resurgences under Atkinson.
New York has been looking for the point guard of the future for years. Perhaps Atkinson will help make sure the Knicks can finally develop a lead guard.
But there are obvious hurdles to jump for an Atkinson-Knicks pairing to come to fruition. For one, it’s still not clear what direction team president Leon Rose wants to go with his coaching staff. Tom Thibodeau has been rumored to be the favorite to land the job, but Mike Miller will at least get a look. It also stands to reason that the team will give former Knick Mark Jackson an interview.
But if not the Knicks, where? Should the Atlanta Hawks part ways with Lloyd Pierce, that would seem like an obvious fit for Atkinson. He was an assistant there for three seasons under Mike Budenholzer.
And again, his penchant for developing point guards would be a nice addition for the Hawks. Trae Young is already a star, but with Atkinson, he could become one of the best players in the league.
Of course, there’s no indication that Pierce is on the hot seat, but the Hawks have somehow taken a step back in his second season as head coach.
Although there will be more than a few teams vying to hire Kenny Atkinson, the Knicks and Hawks are two places he has history. Only time will tell.