Brooklyn Nets: Kenny Atkinson excited for challenge of winning a title

Kenny Atkinson Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kenny Atkinson Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

There are high expectations for the Brooklyn Nets entering next season, but head coach Kenny Atkinson is up for the challenge.

It’s Wednesday, December 5, 2018, the Brooklyn Nets have just lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder—marking their 8th straight defeat. The team is 8-18 and it appears they’re destined for a date in the draft lottery, but then some perplexing happens, they start winning games.

Head coaches in the NBA have a relatively short shelf life, but with most things, there are exceptions to the rule; Gregg Popovich most notably, and then Erik Spoelstra and Rick Carlisle. All three of those coaches have enjoyed decade-plus runs with their respective organizations, but outside of those three, no other coach in the NBA has been tenured with one organization for more than eight years.

So when Atkinson was sitting with an 8-18 record in the first week of December, and a 56-134 overall record in his 2 and a quarter seasons with Brooklyn, his future looked, well, blurry with the organization. He was given what has been for many before him a career death wish back in 2016, a roster without an identity that was in the midst of a deep, prolonged rebuild.

However, Sean Marks and the front office were patient, and what has transpired in the past few years is a true testament to their belief in what they were building in New York. There are other organizations in the NBA that would’ve parted ways with a coach sporting a 29.4% winning percentage—no matter what the situation.

The dark days of 20-win seasons deep within the confines of asset purgatory are seemingly over; there’s real optimism surrounding this roster and for good reason. Brooklyn possesses a roster than can make significant noise in the immediate to near future; they knew Atkinson was their guy despite tumultuous campaigns, and now both parties are in a position to flourish.

It won’t come easy, however, Atkinson has two superstars on his roster now and he will need to ensure that they are content and believe in his abilities behind the bench. He acknowledges the challenge ahead and embraces it.

According to Jackie MacMullan of, Atkinson wanted to believe they could shock the world as underdogs but knew it required top-level talent to win championships in today’s NBA.

"“It would be great to think the ‘little engine that could’ can win it all, but the consensus is ‘No, you have to have top talent to win.’"

When asked about the aforementioned challenges he has to face, here’s what Atkinson had to say:

"“So, now our job is, ‘How do we keep [Durant and Irving] here without compromising our culture?’ It’s a great challenge for us to figure out. Who wouldn’t want this opportunity?”"

It goes without saying that the organization’s culture in place allured the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, their player-friendly mindset and selfless nature is an ideology preached by many around the league but often lacks execution.

However, adding in bodies and subtracting others can often weaken a team’s culture, that’s where Atkinson and the remaining pieces from last year’s roster have to step up and keep the ball rolling. KD and Irving are also two guys that have been there and done that, pushing the culture forward will fall on their shoulders as well.

This is the time this franchise has had expectations entering a season since the infamous Billy King-Danny Ainge trade back in 2013; but this roster is significantly better and more importantly, younger than what was thrown on the court all those years ago.

Durant's greatness will shine through. dark. Next

Expectations can be daunting, but the framework is in place for this team to succeed, it’s now just a matter of executing.