Schott: Nets’ Marks Makes Right Choice With Atkinson

(Nets GM Sean Marks – @BrooklynNets)

The Brooklyn Nets announced on Sunday that Kenny Atkinson will be their new head coach.

Atkinson will become the 21st head coach in the franchise’s NBA history.  Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

Nets General Manager Sean Marks said in a statement, “We are thrilled to announce Kenny Atkinson as our new head coach and to welcome him and his family to Brooklyn.

“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.”

“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.”

Nets welcome to Kenny Atkinson on Twitter. @BrooklynNets,
Nets welcome to Kenny Atkinson on Twitter. @BrooklynNets,

Atkinson currently serves as an assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks on Mike Budenholzer’s staff.

Marks and Budenholzer both honed their skills on Head Coach Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio.

The Popovich family tree, like the Bill Belichick family tree in the NFL, is starting to spread throughout the NBA.

Marks, 40 years old, and Atkinson, 48, can both craft the Nets franchise in their image, and be in for the long haul.

Marks took over as Nets General Manager in February and spent the last two months of the season evaluating young talent while letting go veterans like Joe Johnson and Andrea Bargnani.

The Nets are probably at least a few years away from being a playoff team, as they do not have a first round draft choice for the next three years.

They could be players in the free agent market, but this is not as appealing as the Lakers, Celtics, or Knicks, who are also well under the salary cap, and are farther along than the Nets in their rebuilding.

In Boston’s case, they won 48 games this year and have amassed many draft picks, including the four first round picks from the Nets in the infamous Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade. They are one player away from being a continue.

It will be interesting if Marks keeps the Nets’ two veterans, center Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young, and builds around them, or trades them for draft picks and has a roster completely full of young talent.

Atkinson will continue as Atlanta’s assistant coach until the conclusion of their postseason run. With respect to the Hawks and their playoff schedule, a press conference to formally introduce Atkinson will be held on a date that has yet to be determined.

Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said, “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.

“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 joins the Nets after spending the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks under Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. The Hawks made playoff appearances in each of Atkinson’s four seasons, including the club’s first-ever trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The 2014-15 Hawks registered a franchise-record 60 wins, including a franchise-best 19-game win streak, and captured their first division title in more than 20 years. Atkinson 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).

 A native of Huntington, New York, Atkinson has also held various coaching positions abroad, serving 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, Atkinson was Head Coach of the Dominican Republic national team in last summer’s FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City.

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. A standout collegiate player at the University of Richmond, Atkinson earned All-CAA First Team honors as a junior and senior and helped lead the Spiders to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1988. He was also selected as the 1987 CAA Rookie of the Year.

Atkinson and his wife, Laura, have a son, Anthony, and a daughter, Annika.

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