Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson agrees to coach Nets

Kenny Atkinson (Getty)
Kenny Atkinson (Getty)

Atlanta Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson agreed Sunday to a multi-year contract to become head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

Nets general manager Sean Marks met with several candidates in recent weeks, but had long targeted Atkinson for the job, sources said. Negotiations took place over the past several days and culminated with an agreement this weekend.

Most NBA executives believed Atkinson was the assistant most ready to take over a team.

Atkinson will finish the playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks, with whom he has been the top assistant under Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer since Quin Snyder left for the head-coaching job with the Utah Jazz two years ago. Atkinson built his reputation as a player-development coach in Houston and New York, and solidified his candidacy as a future head coach with the success of the Hawks under Budenholzer.

The Hawks lead the Boston Celtics 1-0 in an Eastern Conference first-round series.

Marks, 40, and Atkinson, 48, will embark together on what promises to be an arduous rebuilding project with the Nets. The franchise has severe limitations on draft picks over the next several years, and Atkinson’s forte in player development will be an important part of maximizing the talent that comes to Brooklyn through what will be limited avenues.

Atkinson has the kind of positive, upbeat persona that could be needed to shepherd and mold a roster through some difficult years. The Nets finished 21-61 under Lionel Hollins and interim coach Tony Brown this season. Marks and Atkinson are now tasked with rebooting the franchise.

Atkinson grew up in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island and starred at the University of Richmond under legendary coach Dick Tarrant. He was part of significant NCAA tournament upsets for Richmond, including victories over Indiana and Georgia Tech to lead Richmond to the Sweet 16 in 1988. Atkinson played 14 years in the minor leagues and Europe before moving into a coaching career.

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