A former Richmond basketball great agreed to a multi-year contract on Sunday to become the head coach for the Brooklyn Nets.
Kenny Atkinson played basketball at the University of Richmond from 1986 to 1990. His career as a Spider was highlighted by leading Richmond to a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA Tournament in 1988 under legendary coach Dick Tarrant. In that tournament, he was an integral part of two of Richmond's most significant NCAA upsets over Indiana University and Georgia Institute of Technology.
Atkinson was named a two-time All-CAA selection and earned CAA Player of the Year honors in 1987. He ranks 10th all-time in scoring with 1,549 shots, third all-time in career assists with 464 for Richmond, and his eight 3-pointers in a single game record remains tied for the most in Richmond history. He was inducted into the Richmond Hall of Fame in 2010.
Although Atkinson went undrafted in the 1990 NBA draft, he did have tryouts with several teams, including the New York Knicks in the summer of 1991. He went on to play professional basketball internationally until 2004 as a point guard.
The Long Island native began his coaching career as an assistant coach for the Knicks in 2008 and spent four years with the team, helping it reach the playoffs in his final two seasons. Atkinson is currently an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks and has been with the team for four years. He will continue serving with the Hawks until the end of their playoff run.
Before his NBA coaching career, Atkinson also spent time working as development and assistant coach for a variety of teams in Europe as well as assistant and head coach with various national teams.
The Nets' general manager, Sean Marks, met with several candidates for the position but had been targeting Atkinson for the job, sources said. Negotiations have taken place over the past couple of days, culminating in this agreement.
Atkinson will enter the position in the midst of a franchise crisis. The Nets finished this past season 21-61 in second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference and with the third worst record in the NBA. The franchise also has severe draft limitations over the next several years.
Many NBA executives have said Atkinson was the best choice for the lead position. His expertise in player development has the potential to maximize the talent coming in to Brooklyn. It will be his duty to revitalize the team.
Atkinson will become the first former Richmond player to become the head coach of an NBA team.
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