The Brooklyn Nets have stunningly fired coach Kenny Atkinson, the team announced Saturday morning, hours after a 19-point win over the Spurs.
Atkinson, who has coached the team since 2016, will be replaced for the remainder of the season by assistant coach Jacque Vaughn.
“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.
In Atkinson’s three-plus seasons in Brooklyn, the Nets went 118-190. That included a 42-40 mark in 2018-19, in which the team made the playoffs for the first time in four years. The Nets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.
Fighting for a postseason spot this season, Brooklyn has stumbled to a 28-34 record, well below the high expectations after a big-spending offseason.
The Nets lured free-agent prizes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to town, but Durant has yet to suit up due to a torn Achilles suffered in last year’s NBA Finals. Meanwhile, Irving’s season officially ended this week after shoulder surgery and just 20 games. The rest of the team has been plagued by injury and inconsistency.
Atkinson, a Long Island native, was an assistant coach for the Knicks from 2008-12 and for the Hawks from 2012-16 before becoming the Nets’ head coach.
The 52-year-old becomes available at a time new Knicks president Leon Rose is looking for a new coach.
“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.” 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.”
Owner Joe Tsai thanked Atkinson as well.
“I am extremely grateful to Kenny Atkinson for what he’s done for our franchise over the years,” Tsai tweeted Saturday morning. “If we did not have him, we would not be where we are with promising young guys still improving. All the best Kenny.”
With Atkinson out, responsibility for the stretch run now shifts to Vaughn. The 45-year-old was a point guard who won the NBA championship in 2007 with the San Antonio Spurs. He was an assistant with the Spurs after retiring and then became head coach of the Orlando Magic, where he was fired after two-plus seasons (58-158).