Kenny Atkinson, Nets Part Ways; Jacque Vaughn Named Interim

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 29:  Head coach Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets reacts against the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena on February 29, 2020 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets announced Saturday they've mutually parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson after three-plus seasons.

Marc Stein of the New York Times provided a statement from Nets general manager Sean Marks:

Brooklyn owns a 28-34 record, which ranks seventh in the Eastern Conference, following Friday's win over the San Antonio Spurs. Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn will take over the staff on an interim basis for the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported background details on Atkinson's departure:

The 52-year-old New York native was hired by the Nets in April 2016. The team posted a 90-156 record with one postseason appearance across his first three years. The Nets were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in five game in the first round of the 2019 playoffs.

Brooklyn had lost five of its previous six games before Friday's win over the Spurs. Atkinson admitted the struggles left an uncertain feeling that challenged the squad.

"You've got to get a little uncomfortable when you're not doing well. I think that's part of the philosophy. You've got to feel that," he told reporters Monday. "It's great having days like this, two days in between, allows you to really practice and get some things done."

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The Nets still hold a five-game advantage over the Washington Wizards (23-39), the current ninth seed in the East, and have a 91 percent chance to reach the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.

That said, the coaching decision likely has as much to do with the future as the remainder of the current campaign since the Nets aren't a serious championship threat despite the probable postseason berth.

Brooklyn is in a transition year with its prized offseason acquisitions Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) and Kyrie Irving (shoulder surgery) both sidelined for the rest of the year. The team will be expected to move toward the forefront of the title conversation when that superstar duo returns next season.

Vaughn is a former NBA point guard who won a championship with the Spurs in 2007. He retired in 2009 and joined the San Antonio staff under Gregg Popovich in 2010.

The 45-year-old University of Kansas product spent two-plus seasons as head coach of the Orlando Magic from July 2012 through February 2015. He compiled a 58-158 record.

Vaughn has been part of the Nets' staff since Atkinson's hiring.

Brooklyn will likely make a concerted effort to land a new coach with a championship pedigree during the offseason as it attempts to make that leap into title contention with Durant and Irving leading the way.

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