On Saturday morning, it was announced that Kenny Atkinson will no longer be the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.
In a surprise move, the Nets, who are 28-34 and hold the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Kenny Atkinson “mutually agreed that a coaching change would be in the best interests of the team,” according to a statement by Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks.
Marks went on to explain, “This was an extremely difficult decision, however, the organization believes it is one that is necessary at this time. Kenny was instrumental in developing our players and building the identity and culture we have become known for over these past four seasons. The foundation he helped put into place here is one that we will continue to build on in the coming seasons.”
Atkinson was in his fourth season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Over that span, Atkinson compiled a 118-190 record. In the 2018-2019 season, Atkinson helped guide the Nets to the playoffs after a four-year absence from the NBA’s postseason tournament. The team exited in the first round, though.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announced via Twitter the parting between Atkinson and the Nets. On SportsCenter, Wojnarowski explained that this move had been in the works for some time.
The Nets are mutually parting ways with coach Kenny Atkinson, league source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 7, 2020
Atkinson will be replaced by one of his assistant coaches, Jacque Vaughn, on an interim basis. Vaughn, who starred at the University of Kansas and had a 12-year NBA career, has experience as a head coach in the league. From 2012 to 2015, Vaughn served as the head coach for the Orlando Magic. He compiled a 58-158 record over that span.
The big surprise in this move is the timing. The Nets are in the midst of the playoff race, currently holding the 7-seed despite a below-.500 record.
This will be one of the most sought-after coaching positions come summertime, considering the roster. The Nets spent millions in free agency in 2019 to lure Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
While the team has yet to see the two take the court together, that is the expectation in 2020. Durant has not played all season thanks to an Achilles injury during the NBA Finals last June. Irving suited up for the Nets this year but played only 20 games before shoulder surgery ended his season.