On Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets shocked the NBA community and ruined brunches around the city when they announced that Kenny Atkinson would be the team’s next head coach. Atkinson, the Atlanta Hawks’ current assistant coach, has long been praised by those around him, including Mike Budenholzer, and was set to be a hot target for franchises this summer. While Atkinson’s contract with Brooklyn is still under wraps, likely because the Hawks are in the playoffs, his multi-year deal has many hoping for longevity and promise.
Of course, this will be Brook Lopez’s ninth coach in nine years so Mikhail Prokhorov and Sean Marks will hope they’ve found their man for the foreseeable future. Currently, Atkinson is one of the best around in player development and is often credited for his role in Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise. With that in mind, we asked some TBG contributors to quickly weigh in on the franchise-altering move.
Here’s what they said:
Jonathan Griggs: This hire symbolizes that the days of quick fixes and back page headlines are over. The Nets’ return to relevancy still figures to be a long journey, but there’s a feeling that the right foundation is now in place for the future. The entire NBA community has nothing but praise for Kenny Atkinson, so you get the sense that the Nets made the right hire.
Sean Flattery: My initial reaction is that Sean Marks must’ve had Kenny Atkinson in mind from the get-go. Like Marks himself, Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer is a chip off the Spurs’ block, automatically making Atkinson a popular pick for the job. Additionally, from Al Horford to Budenholzer himself, Atkinson’s references were impeccable and reliable. With beyond minimal draft picks on the horizon, Marks was thorough with the people he knew best and grabbed his guy.
Ryan Carbain: Think about this: The Nets just made a major hire without any rumors, drama, or speculation. It’s certainly early, but every indication shows that this is Sean Marks’ team to manage. They chose a candidate without a marquee name but one widely respected throughout the league. Atkinson has worked for coaches who play a more modern NBA offense and is constantly hailed for his gift in player development.
Add this hire to the franchise’s laundry list of great recent decisions — from resting Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young down the stretch to disciplining others for showing up late, it looks like the Nets finally have some direction. With free agency up next, the hard part is only just beginning, but you must have some confidence in the Marks/Atkinson combo for now.
Ben Nadeau: Changes, they are a comin’.
After the dismissal of Billy King and Lionel Hollins in January, many worried, and rightfully so, that owner Mikhail Prokhorov would get sucked into making another splashy hire. However, with Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson now in toe, the Nets have taken a major step towards legitimacy, even with much of the future still in flux. It will take a few years, obviously, but this summer’s free agency crop is a great place to start.
Jeremy Lin, Al Horford, and Kent Bazemore all swear by Atkinson and the trio will be free agents after June’s NBA Finals, each natural fits for the holey Nets.