Shams Charania Explains Kenny Atkinson's Departure From Nets

LISTEN: NBA Insider Joins 'Moose And Maggie'

Moose & Maggie
March 09, 2020 - 1:45 pm

After three seasons as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Kenny Atkinson and the team agreed to mutually part ways Saturday morning, in a statement released by the team.

Atkinson, who was rewarded with a contract extension in April 2019, went 118-190 in 3½ seasons with Brooklyn. The Nets were 28-34 this season at the time of the decision, were in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and had lost five of their last seven, although they soundly beat the San Antonio Spurs 139-120 on Friday night.

NBA Insider Shams Charania joined Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis to break down the events leading up to the two sides parting ways.

"This past week was very very telling," Charania explained. "Obviously it was a culmination of all the issues that were boiling over the course of the entire year ... when you integrate multiple All-Stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, I think they had another expectation of the offense and how everything would be structured. Maybe having more input in the coaching staff's decisions. That's usually the give and take you have as a coach."

Under Atkinson, the Nets' win total grew from 20 to 28 to 42 in his first three seasons. Together, he and Marks set out to change the culture of the organization. After previous GM Billy King paid dearly in draft picks to acquire Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics in 2013, Marks and Atkinson rebuilt the team by emphasizing the development of young talent, and Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris were among their biggest success stories.

"If the communication was better between Kenny Atkinson and his players, especially the star players, things would've probably been different," Charania described. "He probably would still be the coach right now. At the end of the day, it was just not there and this past week there were two very notable moments, one was him going off on the players at halftime in Boston, I think that was a very heated moment."

"And Wednesday evening, that was more calm ... I think there was a lot of, if we're gonna get things right, we've all gotta put everything on the table," Charania said. "The players and Kenny. And they did that ... Kenny and other players calling out guys. DeAndre Jordan or Spencer Dinwiddie. The players going back at their coach and these are the things we wanted to change. We wanted you to solidify these roles. We wanted more communication of the hierarchy of this team. We wanted the things that needed to be fixed, we wanted them to be fixed. We didn't want you to settle for the status quo."

Marks informed the players by text message Saturday morning and then discussed the decision with them at the team's training facility. Players who had been with the team in previous seasons didn't sense that Atkinson wasn't getting through anymore but also acknowledged that things have changed in Brooklyn this season.

"After that meeting, it was going to go one of two directions ... Kenny was going to take that all and be like this motivates me ... or it was gonna be a deflating moment," Charania said. "Obviously it was the latter ... he just realized his voice was not going over with the players. I think both sides understood if he was going to do things his way, it wasn't going to work."

Jacque Vaughn, one of Atkinson's assistants, has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full Shams Charania interview with "Moose and Maggie".