Nobody saw the move coming, but Kenny Atkinson is no longer the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. This morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the two parties agreed to mutually part ways. The Nets later confirmed the news.
In just under four seasons with Brooklyn, Atkinson compiled a 118-190 record. In his first year with the team, the Nets went 20-62. Two years later, Atkinson had them looking competitive in a first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Brooklyn is on pace to make the postseason once again, but the team’s front office felt that Atkinson’s voice had been drowned out in the locker room.
With Atkinson gone, Jacque Vaughn will serve as interim head coach for the Nets. Vaughn spent just about three years as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, but his teams went just 58-158 from the 2012-13 season to the time he was fired during the 2014-15 season.
A former assistant for the San Antonio Spurs, Vaughn is well respected around the NBA. If the Nets were to play some inspired basketball the rest of the way, perhaps he’d get a chance to lead this team in the future. But a team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant is more likely to make a splash. That being said, here’s a look at five coaches that could be offered the Nets job this summer:
The Golden State Warriors undoubtedly took a leap once Steve Kerr took Mark Jackson’s job, but SNY’s Ian Begley reported earlier that Rich Kleiman, Durant’s business manager, is a huge fan of Jackson.
Jackson did a decent job of helping Golden State’s stars grow up, but he wasn’t exactly a guru with the clipboard. That makes it hard to believe he is the right guy to take this Nets team to the next level, but the unfortunate reality is that Brooklyn has to do whatever makes Durant and Irving happiest.
Becky Hammon is currently the lead assistant for the San Antonio Spurs, and all of Gregg Popovich’s pupils get looks when jobs open up. Hammon is no exception.
The former WNBA All-Star is one of the brightest minds in basketball, and she’ll get a shot to lead a team soon. With Nets general manager Sean Marks in a position to make the call in Brooklyn, it’s fair to wonder whether or not this is it for Hammon. Marks also came from San Antonio.
The real issue here is that Hammon might not want her first job to have the added pressure that comes with coaching a pair of difficult superstars. The first sign of trouble could lead to her ousting, which wouldn’t be fair. But that’s an unfortunate reality in today’s league.
David Fizdale didn’t end up being what the New York Knicks hoped, but very few coaches are capable of leading that franchise to any sort of success. Fizdale still has a reputation as a guy that players like playing for. Until that changes, his name will come up for head coaching jobs.
Like Jackson, Fizdale hasn’t exactly shown that he can be a great offensive coach. But one would think that that a team with Irving and Durant won’t have much trouble scoring the ball. If his presence on the sideline is enough to keep those two from getting upset, that could be enough.
Tyronn Lue went from coaching a perennial championship contender in Cleveland to helping Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers with yet another team destined for postseason success. Sure, Lue was fired by the Cavaliers after an 0-6 start to the 2018-19 season, but he just wasn’t suited to be the leader of a rebuilding team.
What if the Nets come calling? Lue has already won an NBA title as Irving’s head coach, so there is a level of familiarity there. He also has the temperament to handle the adversity that comes with being a championship favorite.
In Billy Donovan’s only season coaching Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder were a game away from making it to the NBA Finals. And while this year’s Thunder team is playing extremely well, Donovan’s contract hasn’t been extended by general manager Sam Presti.
If the Thunder were to trade Chris Paul this summer—many teams will be monitoring the 34-year-old’s situation—there is no guarantee that the team would be a playoff contender. Does Donovan want to be in a rebuilding situation? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a flat-out stud, but the rest of the roster is far away.
If Brooklyn makes Donovan an offer, it’d be hard to see him turning it down.