5 candidates to replace Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson next season

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With Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn Nets parting ways, here are five candidates to replace him as head coach for next season, when this team expects to contend.

In one of the more stunning front office decisions of the NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets have agreed to mutually part ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson.

This is a shocking move, considering he was one of the two pillars that have brought Brooklyn’s rebuild back to stable ground. Despite a completely empty cupboard with no established superstars, young players with upside or first-round draft picks to speak of when they first took over, the duo of Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks helped establish a culture, install a modern NBA offense and generally bring respectability back to the organization.

Now, Atkinson is stepping down as the Nets’ head coach, ranking third in franchise history in games coached and fourth in wins. Something definitely feels off about this decision, since Brooklyn is still playoff-bound and has a litany of injuries to blame for its 28-34 record rather than the head coach. This era of player empowerment is a good thing, but it’s not without casualties. It appears Atkinson’s name may be the latest name on that list, despite his meaningful contributions to the team’s style, his penchant for player development and how his fixture made the Nets more alluring to free agents.

In any case, now the question is: Who are the Brooklyn Nets going to find that’s better? Assistant Jacque Vaughn will take over as the interim head coach for the rest of the season, but nothing that happens over the next 2-3 months really matters all too much. The focus is on next year, when the Nets will have a fully healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant back, and that’s the team the Nets need to find the right coach for.

Because Brooklyn plans on seriously contending next year, and because apparently no one was convinced Atkinson was the right man for that job (despite never getting a chance to prove it), the Nets will most likely be looking for an established, proven name to take over. Bearing that in mind, here are the five candidates — and a few honorable mentions — that could be in the running.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Jeff Van Gundy — JVG is frequently mentioned any time a head coaching vacancy comes up, though it’s usually in conjunction with the New York Knicks, where he coached for six seasons. However, the Nets are also in the Big Apple, so even though he hasn’t coached in the league since 2007, he’ll probably be a name that comes up since he’s an NBA broadcaster and coach for Team USA Basketball.
  • Tom Thibodeau — Another established name that’s going to come up, Thibs is familiar with both Durant and Irving from his role with Team USA Basketball. With that being said, even if his name does surface because of his reputation for tough, defensive-minded teams, his penchant for running his stars into the ground would be a nightmare for two stars coming off serious injuries. As his last stop with the Minnesota Timberwolves proved, Thibodeau just might not be a good fit for the modern NBA anymore.
  • Stan Van Gundy — SVG has proven he can win with established talent and a functional roster, but his time with the Detroit Pistons left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Part of the problem was his dual role as head coach and president of basketball operations, which wouldn’t be the case in Brooklyn, so maybe he wouldn’t be a terrible option. With that being said, there’s also a good chance Van Gundy is another coach among the dying breed that doesn’t have what it takes to adapt to the modern NBA.
  • Jason Kidd — LOL. (We prefer to operate in a world where it makes no sense that Jason Kidd is somehow a candidate for every head coaching vacancy in the NBA now. Moving on.)

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