The Nets planned press conference for Kenny Atkinson will be delayed another couple of weeks at least after the Hawks eliminated the Celtics and moved on to play the Cavaliers. But in interviews with Brian Lewis and Fred Kerber, those who know him think the Nets did very well in hiring the Hawks assistant.
"He knows how to teach. He’s a player’s coach who does a great job interacting with players," Dominque Wilkins, the Hawks’ vice president of basketball operations, told Kerber. "He’s going to be a guy who gets along with players, understands his players. I think he’ll make a great coach."
Lewis went further back in Atkinson's career to interview his college coach at the University of Richmond, Dick Tarrant, who revealed Atkinson was nicknamed "Spunky" when he played or the Spiders.
"We called him Spunky. He fit the nickname,’’ said Tarrant, whose 1988 Sweet 16 team was led by Atkinson at point guard. "Kenny, on his day off, would shoot 250 shots. I’d say, ‘This is your day off, Spunky.’ He’d rather have 45 minutes in the weight room, do squats, shoot 300 shots on his day off.'
Tarrrant also revealed a bit of Atkinson's worldliness. "Kenny speaks five languages: French, Spanish, Italian, German and English. So he understands not only the languages but customs of the global player. I think all that helped with the ownership in Brooklyn.’’
Those themes --teaching, work ethic and international experience-- were part of one or more of the interviews Lewis did with whose played under and with the 48-year-old.
"I liked his background, that he had a European-type [philosophy] that he comes from, that he played for a while, coached for a while. He saw basketball the way I saw it," said Mike D'Antoni who hired him as an assistant with the Knicks. "He’ll be a good coach. He’s very knowledgeable, a good teacher. … He has a wealth of knowledge, can teach and get along with people really well. He’ll do a fantastic job wherever he goes. It just so happened to be Brooklyn.’’
With Hawks doing well, the Atkinson interview could be postponed until late May or even further into the playoffs. That's fine. It will give him a chance to add to an impressive resume'.