Stunning news came out of Brooklyn early on Saturday morning when the team announced that it had mutually parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson. Considering the success the team had last year and the culture Atkinson had built within the franchise during his tenure at the helm, the thought of the two sides parting ways mid-season was a bit of a shock.
A new piece by Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports gives some insight into what went into such a sudden decision. As Goodwill tells it, Atkinson’s main gripe stemmed from what he viewed as issues on thee horizon when it came to coaching the team’s two new stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant is, of course, out for the entirety of the season as he recovers from an achilles injury he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals, while Irving’s season was limited to 20 games as he dealt with shoulder issues.
Via Yahoo Sports:
In a year that was nothing more than groundwork for the future, the meshing of Atkinson’s style with Durant and Irving was on trial. Even though Irving only played 20 games and is out for the season following shoulder surgery and Durant is still recovering from his Achilles injury, everyone had to deal with each other and honestly evaluate if this would be a marriage that would stand into next season.
“Kenny pushed for the parting just as much, if not more than Brooklyn,” a league source told Yahoo Sports.
Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports that Atkinson wasn’t fond of coaching Durant and Irving based on what he saw this season, and would rather something happen now than at the end of the season.
Seeing as how Atkinson is known for being a good player development coach first and foremost, it would make sense if the stuff he’s good at and what is necessary to coach a superstar-laden team don’t necessarily mesh, if that’s what happened here. Someone who is good at, though, is the guy Irving would reportedly like to take over: Tyronn Lue.
Irving soured on Atkinson early, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and currently prefers Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue to be the team’s next head coach. Lue was the head coach in Cleveland when Irving hit the winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals and was in talks to take the Lakers job before discussions broke down.
Lue, of course, coached Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship back in 2016. Currently, Lue is an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers after he was unable to come to terms on a head coaching deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. While rumors swirl about who will take over for Atkinson and what led to his departure, Jacque Vaughn will take over for the remainder of the season in Brooklyn.