Kenny Atkinson never got a chance to coach this new-look Brooklyn Nets squad at full health and that is a shame.
Which means, despite a four-year tenure that saw a drastic turnaround in the aftermath of the infamous Billy King debacle that jeopardized the Nets’ future, Atkinson is never going to see the fruits of his labor pay off with aspirations of winning an NBA championship in the immediate forecast. He deserved to be gifted such an opportunity.
It’s irrefutable that this season hasn’t been a reflection of the jubilation that came over the franchise this past summer once they signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But despite a season that was overtaken by core pieces missing significant time and blown opportunities galore, Atkinson commanded this team to a semi-respectable record heading into the final stretch of the season.
He wasn’t perfect; immediately you could point out a lack of in-game adjustments or a certain stubbornness when it came to adjusting the rotation. But he was definitely good enough to coach this team at full health.
You could fault him for being too analytically-inclined when it came to his offensive schemes: No one runs fewer post-ups than the Nets and taking a mid-range jump shot appeared like grounds for banishment from the rotation.
However, Durant took more post-ups last year (185) than the Nets have all season this year, and both Irving and Durant are aficionados in the mid-range. One could hope for the best of both worlds uniting next season, but that now won’t happen under Atkinson’s watchful eye.
For now, Jacque Vaughn assumes head-coaching responsibilities. His last stint as such was with the Orlando Magic, where he coached three seasons and his best winning percentage of any of those was .288%.
Marks is on the clock. Firing Atkinson is acceptable if there is a better fit to coach this roster well into June in the next couple of seasons, but for now, you could make the argument that he is the best available coach on the market. This summer has even more at stake now.