Bleacher Report ranks Kenny Atkinson 27th best head coach in NBA
With training camp right around the corner, basketball coverage has officially ramped up and, unfortunately, much of the Brooklyn Nets’ roster is in flux currently, asking more questions than it has answers. Will Rondae Hollis-Jefferson make the sophomore year leap? Is Brook Lopez ready to be a vocal leader? Can we really celebrate Linsanity’s New York-style revival tour for seven months straight?
Among those hard-hitting questions remains one more important than the rest: will Kenny Atkinson be a successful head coach? Atkinson’s extensive coaching history as an assistant with the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, and Atlanta Hawks, along with his connections to the famous San Antonio Spurs’ coaching tree, have many Nets fans excited for the future. While the front office is certainly approaching the Atkinson era with a slow burn strategy in mind — finally! — there’s a fair chance that 2016-2017 will be rough as the new coach finds his legs.
To this, Bleacher Report’s yearly ranking of all 30 head coaches slotted Atkinson towards the bottom of the list today — at 27th to be exact. Above the Los Angeles Lakers’ Luke Walton (!) but below the Memphis Grizzlies’ David Fizdale, here’s what author Dan Favale had to say about Atkinson’s first year:
Kenny Atkinson has zero experience as an NBA head coach, but he’s well-traveled and expertly versed in an array of different styles.
After serving as the director of player development for the Houston Rockets in 2007-08, he joined Mike D’Antoni’s coaching tree with the New York Knicks. He then became Mike Budenholzer’s lead assistant in 2013-14, during which time he helped reinvent the Atlanta Hawks on both sides of the floor.
Atkinson, then, has assisted with wholesale rebuilds at every stop—making him exactly what the Brooklyn Nets need.
“New GM Sean Marks has taken a more long-term approach to rebuilding the team and has shifted the team’s focus away from getting big-money stars just because it helps ticket sales and should guarantee a postseason berth,” CBS Sports’ Ananth Pandian wrote. “They’re not taking any shortcuts, which makes Atkinson seem like an ideal fit.”
If Atkinson’s summer-league approach is any indication, the Nets will borrow offensive elements from the San Antonio Spurs and Hawks while playing with the pace of a team coached by D’Antoni’s second cousin—fast but not fantastically fast. And with Jeremy Lin piloting the offense, that suits them.
Coaching defense into a core with one (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson), maybe two, plus point-stoppers is a challenge, and Brooklyn’s rotation will be a revolving door. But the Nets, unlike the Lakers or Suns, are clearly committed to a win-later vision. That should allow Atkinson to forge his own sideline identity more quickly and thoroughly than most first-year coaches.
Steve Kerr, Mike Budenholzer, Brad Stevens, Rick Carlisle, and Gregg Popovich rounded out the top five.
We’re a little more than a month away from seeing Atkinson’s Brooklyn Grit in action, but it’s not about 2016-2017 — although Bojan may argue otherwise — it’s about finally building a future worth the excitement.