With one of the more shocking decisions in recent memory, the Brooklyn Nets decided to “mutually” part ways with Head Coach Kenny Atkinson earlier today. Atkinson has been Brooklyn’s coach for the last four years and was a significant contributor to the change in culture during his tenure, resulting in a playoff appearance last year for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
The speculation among Nets Twitter surrounding general manager Sean Mark decided that superstar players Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were not on board with Atkinson as the Head Coach for next season. While zero reports would validate that assumption, many fans could point to the early on-court disconnect between Atkinson and Kyrie during the season and the underwhelming performance of the team as a whole. Ironically, this decision comes on the heels of one of the best performances from Coach Atkinson and the Nets all season, as they manhandled the Spurs last night, 139 – 120. Jacque Vaughn will finish out the season as the team’s interim head coach.
Here is a list of plausible candidates to replace Atkinson:
Royal Ivey, Current Position: New York Knicks Assistant Coach
How do you make your newly acquired superstar happy? By hiring his best friends. With the dismissal of Atkinson, the Nets have shown that they are willing to cater more towards their superstars than trust in the culture and decision making that got them here. That is why I can easily see Sean Marks going after one of Kevin Durant’s closest friends in Royal Ivey. Ivey briefly played with KD in OKC and was an assistant coach for the Thunder from 2016-18, before joining the Knicks coaching staff two years ago. This move would make the most sense if Mark’s primary goal is to please KD with the new hire.
Jacque Vaughn, Current Position: Interim Brooklyn Nets Head Coach
Vaughn has close ties to the Nets organization; he’s been with the team since 2016 as an assistant coach and played behind Jason Kidd as the backup point guard from 2004 – 2006. Vaughn has championship experience as a player, winning a title with the Spurs in 2007. He also has experience as a Head Coach, when he coached the Orlando Magic from 2012-2015. Since he’s the interim coach for the remainder of the season, KD, Kyrie, and Marks will have front row seats to observe how he operates and communicates with players.
Jason Kidd, Current Position: Los Angeles Lakers Assistant Coach
Does anyone think the Nets aren’t crazy enough to bring Kidd back into the fold? Everyone knows he’s itching to be a head coach again. He seems to get along with most superstar players. Just ask Giannis Antetekumpo, who almost went to war with the Bucks for letting Kidd go a few years ago. And if the Lakers win the championship this year, they will be forced to keep Frank Vogel as Head Coach, who many thought was meant to be a placeholder for Kidd to take over down the line. While Kidd’s first tenure as coach of the Nets had its ups and downs, I wouldn’t put it past Marks and upper Nets management to bring back the most important Net of all time.
Becky Hammon, Current Position: San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach
How great of a story would this be? The Brooklyn Nets hire the first female Head Coach in NBA history and then go on to win the championship in her first year as coach. This might be a reality come next year. Hammon has been under the Greg Popovich coaching tree for four years, where guys like Brett Brown, Mike Budenholzer, Mike Brown, and Jacque Vaughn have all gotten Head Coaching opportunities from being Spurs assistants. As a 15 year WNBA veteran, she’s extremely knowledgeable of the game, young enough to relate to the players, and might be the perfect coach for a team with championship aspirations.
Jay Williams, Current Position: ESPN/ABC analyst for multiple shows
I know this candidate is out of left field, but please hear me out. Williams has been closely linked to Kevin Durant for over the past year. When Durant got hurt, it was Williams who spoke to the media on behalf of KD throughout the process. When KD made his decision to sign elsewhere, Jay Williams was right there, taking interviews on Sportscenter, explaining why there was no ill will between Kevin Durant and the Warriors. Williams also has strong ties to Duke, Kyrie Irving’s alma mater. At 38 years old, he would be one of the youngest coaches in the league, giving him ample time to win multiple championships and create a dynasty in Brooklyn.