UPDATE: This should go over well ... Durant and Kyrie weren’t even factored into the coaching decision, which adds another questionable wrinkle to this saga. Durant was apparently very keen of Atkinson when he signed with the Nets during the offseason. Jacque Vaughn will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season.
When asked how Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant factored into the decision to dismiss Atkinson, Marks said the "same way" the other players on the roster did.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) March 7, 2020
"I think this was a decision that wasn't even about Kevin, Kyrie, Caris, Spencer, Jarrett Allen..."
The Brooklyn Nets and coach Kenny Atkinson have mutually agreed to part ways following the team’s blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. This is a very surprising move. The Nets are 28-34, which is a bit below average, but are also the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and well on their way to securing a playoff berth.
The Nets and coach Kenny Atksinon announce they've mutually parted ways. A shocker.— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) March 7, 2020
“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,” GM Sean Marks said. " pic.twitter.com/DJU6pEAzlr
It’s also worth taking into account that the Nets have been playing this season without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant for a nice chunk. Durant isn’t expected to return at all and Brooklyn is still in solid position to make the postseason. The emergence of Caris LeVert over the past month or so also brings plenty of optimism to a franchise that has title aspirations past this season with two superstars. So why part ways with your coach in March? It’s perplexing, really.
Atkinson will finish his career in Brooklyn 118-190 over four seasons with just one playoff appearance. It’s tough to put it all on Atkinson when he was brought in to help with a rebuild and the team finally was able to lure a few high-profile free agents to town. This could just be a precursor of a move that will align Durant and Irving with a coach they’re more familiar with for next season.
There’s literally nothing but generic PR BS in the statement from the Nets, so not sure what to make of that statement above. Perhaps despite Brooklyn’s decent showing so far this season, the team felt with the current roster it should have been performing at a higher level? Again, I’ve got nothing. Here’s something from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that also doesn’t tell us much:
Sean Marks and Atkinson had several conversations and the sense had been that a change was inevitable and both sides decided that there was no sense waiting on it. Both had felt that Atkinson and Nets had run course together. They have maintained a close relationship.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 7, 2020
Atkinson started his career in coaching mostly overseas, but was an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks from 2008-2016 before being hired by the Nets. I’d imagine a team like the Knicks may jump at the chance to bring back Atkinson and potentially stick it to a cross-town rival next season.