The Brooklyn Nets are on pace to make the NBA playoffs this season (despite being under .500) and have stars Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Kevin Durant (achilles) expected to return at full health in 2020-21.
But head coach Kenny Atkinson won't be the helm for any of it anymore. The Nets and Atkinson "mutually agreed to part ways" amid the fourth season of the partnership, the team announced Saturday.
"After discussions with Kenny about the progress of the season, we mutually agreed that a coaching change would be in the best interest of the team," general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. "This was an extremely difficult decision, however the organization believes it is one that is necessary at this time."
I am extremely grateful to Kenny Atkinson for what he’s done for our franchise over the years. If we did not have him, we would not be where we are with promising young guys still improving. All the best Kenny.
Assistant Jacque Vaughn will coach the remainder of the season, per the team.
In 2016, Atkinson inherited an organization devoid of talent due to the absence of first-round picks over the years. Those first teams went a combined 48-116, before last year's squad made the playoffs with a 42-40 record before suffering a first-round exit.
The Nets were one of the winners of this past summer's blockbuster free agency, signing both Durant, who will not play this season as he recovers, and Irving, who was limited to 20 games because of a shoulder injury that disrupted him during much of the season.
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"Kenny was instrumental in developing our players and building the identity and culture we have become known for over these past four seasons," Marks said in the statement. "The foundation he helped put into place here is one that we will continue to build on in the coming seasons. We are forever grateful for all of Kenny's hard work and dedication to the Nets and the Brooklyn community. Kenny, Laura and the Atkinson family will always remain a part of our Nets family and we wish them nothing but the best in the future."
Atkinson had a long playing career overseas. He first joined a NBA bench as an assistant in 2008 with the New York Knicks and stayed there until 2012 before serving as an assistant for the Atlanta Hawks from 2012-2016.
The Nets are currently 28-34 and hold a half-game lead over the Orlando Magic for the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets just announced that Kenny Atkinson is OUT as coach … pic.twitter.com/VzIj2NVsuf
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