The Nets didn’t waste any time moving on from their old regime. The team announced the hiring of Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson Sunday afternoon. He will become the 21st head coach in franchise history.
Atkinson is known for his player development, which will be a critical aspect of the job moving forward in Brooklyn. The Hawks surged in 2014-15, winning 60 games before dispatching the Nets in the first round of the playoffs. He has also overseen the growth of young, journeymen forwards like DeMarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore. Carroll signed a lucrative free-agent offer with the Toronto Raptors this past offseason, and Bazemore–currently a free agent–should expect a sizable payday this summer. The Nets will likely be in pursuit of the swingman’s services.
“We are thrilled to announce Kenny Atkinson as our new head coach and to welcome him and his family to Brooklyn,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks. “Kenny’s years of NBA coaching experience working under successful head coaches such as Mike Budenholzer and Mike D’Antoni have provided him with the foundation and experience we were looking for in a head coach. We believe that Kenny’s core principles, leadership, communication skills and exceptional background in player development make him an ideal fit for the culture we are building in Brooklyn.”
Atkinson will continue in his role as Hawks assistant until Atlanta’s postseason comes to an end. The Hawks currently maintain a 1-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics.
“I’d like to extend a personal welcome to Kenny and wish all of us success as we begin a new era at the Brooklyn Nets,” said Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “Aside from his tremendous skills and experience, he has the mindset we need to build a winning team day by day, step by step. Together, we can do great things.”
Atkinson spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Hawks, working under former San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer. Atkinson also served on the 2015 Eastern Conference All-Star coaching staff, and he guided Team World in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend in New York. Prior to his tenure with the Hawks, Atkinson was an assistant coach for four seasons with the New York Knicks (2008-12), helping the team reach the postseason in 2011 and 2012. Atkinson also spent one season as the Director of Player Development for the Houston Rockets (2007-08).
“I am truly honored and humbled to be named the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, and I would like to thank Nets’ ownership and management for this tremendous opportunity,” said Atkinson. “Together with Sean and his staff, we look forward to building a winning tradition here in Brooklyn. I also want to acknowledge and thank Mike Budenholzer and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for their cooperation and support throughout this process. While I am eager to begin working with the Nets, I remain committed to my coaching responsibilities with the Hawks for the remainder of the postseason.”
A native of Huntington, NY, Atkinson has held numerous coaching positions around the world. He served as director of Player Development/assistant coach for Paris Basket Racing Club in France (2004-06), director of Player Development/assistant coach for the national team of the Republic of Georgia in the summer of 2006 and as an assistant coach with the Ukraine national team at the European championships in 2011. Most recently, he was head coach of the Dominican Republic national team in last summer’s FIBA Americas Championship.
Prior to beginning his coaching career, Atkinson played professionally for 14 years (1990-2004), beginning his pro career in the CBA and USBL before competing for teams in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain. He played collegiately for the University of Richmond.
Due to the Nets’ lack of draft picks, Atkinson’s experiences around the world should help the team unearth the best international prospects. The team only holds the No. 55 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, as the Celtics own the rights to the Nets’ first round pick, and Brooklyn was required to swap second round picks with the Los Angeles Clippers.