The Nets have had a revolving door of head coaches since the franchise relocated to Brooklyn following the 2011-2012 season, six to be exact. From Avery Johnson, to P.J. Carlesimo, to Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, Tony Brown, and now current Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson who was just announced as the latest head man in Brooklyn.
Atkinson will finish out the postseason with Atlanta before heading to the Nets.
I’m not going to pretend like I’m a Kenny Atkinson expert, but he seems to be one of the more respected assistant coaches in the NBA, has worked under Mike D’Antoni and Mike Budenholzer, and is credited for turning Jeremy Lin into a legitimate starting guard in the NBA. He’s also new GM Sean Marks’s guy. That’s all well and good.
But here’s the harsh reality for Atkinson. The Nets aren’t going to be good for a long time thanks to the horrendous trades made by former GM Billy King. It’s so bad Brooklyn won’t have full control of their first round pick until 2019, and with no star player or coach currently on the roster, luring a big-time free agent even with a ton of cap room to the Nets is going to be almost impossible.
The current roster isn’t particularly impressive either. Brook Lopez is an all-star caliber center, but beyond him, the Nets consist of a wide-array of role players. That’s not going to win you games in the NBA.
So Atkinson should expect to lose early and often, and it’s crucial owner Mikhail Prokhorov understand that. Obviously you want to see some sort of gradual improvement, but firing Atkinson after the Nets struggle again next season and then don’t get off to the best of starts the following year isn’t going to change anything. Doing that could almost be viewed as insane because the Nets would just be repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Hopefully Marks and Prokhorov recognize the importance of staying the course with Atkinson, and actually gives him a chance to see what his system with his players can accomplish.
It will also be vital that Marks not panic by over paying for a no-good free agent (ie signing Travis Outlaw to a five-year $35 million deal prior to the 2010 season) with the understanding Brooklyn isn’t a very desirable destination and won’t be for awhile.
The Nets can’t keep giving coaches one to two years if that to turn things around because that expectation is highly unrealistic. The most important thing the Nets can do with Atkinson is give him the confidence and freedom to leave his footprint on the franchise that so desperately needs some sort of direction.