INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals reacts to their 69-73 loss to the Michigan Wolverines during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

New Iona coach Rick Pitino discusses the Brooklyn Nets’ firing of Kenny Atkinson as well as the new superstar duo.

Rick Pitino, the new coach of Iona College’s men’s basketball team, participated in a recent Q&A and talked about the Brooklyn Nets quite a bit. When Steve Serby of the New York Post asked him about his thoughts on the firing of head coach Kenny Atkinson, Pitino said he was shocked.

“If you look at his roster right now, there’s no way they’re a playoff team, and he has them in the playoffs,” he said. “He took guys with no reputation, and developed them into really good basketball players. Actually would have been one of my choices for Coach of the Year.”

When asked about the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signings, Pitino said he was shocked that they signed those deals without even giving the New York Knicks much consideration.

He said that he regards Durant as an all-time great because of his intelligence, on-court skills, and work ethic. He did admit that Durant is coming off a tough Achilles injury. Nonetheless, he states KD never relied on his athleticism to be great, just his skills.

Pitino said Irving is a great player too and noted that he’s good friends with the Boston Celtics equipment manager who said Irving doesn’t deserve the criticism he receives.

When Serby asked him if he thinks the Nets will be in the championship conversation next year, Pitino said it depends on how good they are defensively.

“You’ve gotta develop an identity of what you want to be from a style standpoint, and once they develop that identity through their new coach, then we’ll see how good they’re going to be,” Pitino stated.

Prior to the league suspension due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Nets were 30-34 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. It’s unclear how it goes from here regarding the continuation of the current campaign. But if the league decides to go straight to the 16-team postseason when basketball is able to start up again, the Nets will be punching their ticket to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.