Nets hire Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson as new coach

Mike Budenholzer
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets hired Atlanta assistant Kenny Atkinson as their new coach on Sunday, though he won’t be taking over until the Hawks’ season ends.

Atkinson spent the last four seasons in Atlanta, with the Hawks making the playoffs each year.

Before that, he was an assistant with the New York Knicks for four seasons.

“Kenny’s years of NBA coaching experience working under successful head coaches such as Mike Budenholzer and Mike D’Antoni have provided him with the foundation and experience we were looking for in a head coach,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.

The Nets fired second-year coach Lionel Hollins in January with the team off to a 10-27 start. Under interim coach Tony Brown, Brooklyn went on to finish 21-61 — its worst showing since the 2009-10 season and the second-worst mark in the Eastern Conference.

Atkinson will be Brooklyn’s sixth coach in five seasons.

“I’m very happy for Kenny and excited that he’s earned the opportunity to be a head coach,” said Budenholzer, the Hawks’ coach. “His competitiveness, knowledge and feel for the game, and passion for player development are all at a high level and will serve him well as a head coach.”

Before coming to Atlanta, Budenholzer was a long-time assistant with the Spurs. Marks also has ties to San Antonio as a player, assistant coach and front officer staffer.

“The Nets have a very strong foundation to build on,” Budenholzer said.

Atkinson’s stock rose as the Hawks climbed to prominence a year ago, setting a franchise record with 60 wins and reaching the Eastern final. They slipped this season but still claimed a No. 4 seed, opening the playoffs with home-court advantage in the first round.

The Hawks hold a 1-0 lead over the Boston Celtics after winning the series opener Saturday night, which means Atkinson will be with Atlanta for at least another 10 days. That could stretch on much longer, of course, as long as the team keeps winning.

A native of nearby Huntington, New York, on Long Island, the 48-year-old Atkinson starred at Richmond then played professionally in Europe.

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