This is a transcript of the introductory press conference of new Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Chris Carrinno: Thank you very much Ian and Sarah, and we wanna welcome and say good afternoon to everyone watching on the YES Network as well as streaming live on BrooklynNets.com and the Brooklyn Nets Facebook page. I'm Chris Carrino and we welcome you to the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center, the home of the Nets here in industry city in Brooklyn. We want to acknowledge that there are a lot of terrific people in this room, so many that we can't mention, especially Kenny Atkinson's family, the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. He has a huge contingent here being from Long Island, but we wanna introduce his wife Laura, and Anthony and Anika. Welcome to Brooklyn.
Carrino: We are going to be opening it up to general questions after opening remarks. Kenny Atkinson, as Ian mentioned, becomes the twenty-first head coach in Nets franchise history, and for more, we turn to the General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets, Sean Marks. Sean...
Sean Marks: Thank you, Chris. Thank you for coming out here today. I guess this comes as no real surprise, but it is with great pleasure that I get to announce the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets today. After a long, diverse, and extensive search, we looked at many, many candidates, all of whom who were at the top of their field around the globe and we found one guy that met that criteria, and that's Kenny Atkinson.
Kenny has been one of the most respected coaches in the league for a while now working as an assistant coach with New York and also lately with the Atlanta Hawks, under two great coaches there. He's always been known for his player development, and what he's done developing players in the time he's spent developing relationships with those guys, and it was clear to us that although the player development's part of it, it stood out, it was more than just that. It was what Kenny brought to the table. It was his character, his values, and perhaps above all else, it was his passion for the job. So after long discussions and meetings with ownership, we knew Kenny met that criteria easily, quickly, and actually with leaps and bounds. So again, it is with great pleasure that I wanna introduce the latest and the new head coach for the Brooklyn Nets, and also welcome his family to our Nets family. So welcome Kenny!
Kenny Atkinson: Thank you Sean and thank all of you for coming today. First of all, I would really like to thank Mr. Prokhorov and his group for giving this fantastic opportunity to become head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. I'd like to thank Sean for having the faith in me, giving me this opportunity. I've known Sean over the years. We've had long discussions during this interview process, and I really felt Sean was someone I could form a partnership with.
Someone I could collaborate with, someone I could trust. And that really excited me, and it made me aggressive in pursuing this job. I said "This is the guy I'd love to work with on a daily basis in the trenches with" so I'm excited to go forward with Sean and build a strong Brooklyn Nets team and build a sustainable club that's gonna be patient, but looking to improve over the long term.
I'd also like to acknowledge the Brooklyn Nets players that are here today. Some of these guys, almost all of them, were in here working this morning. Our young players Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson), Sean (Kilpatrick), Chris (McCullough), Markel (Brown) and my guy Thaddeus Young. He wasn't in here this morning, but he'll be in soon. 6 AM tomorrow, Thaddeus.
But I'm excited. I'm excited to work with a young, talented group of players, and also some pretty good veterans in Thaddeus and Brook (Lopez). By the way, Brook couldn't be here today. I spoke with him yesterday and I've been speaking with him over the past couple of weeks about our vision and what we're trying to accomplish here, and I'm excited for him to lead this going forward and to have a guy like Thaddeus, an established player in the NBA, an excellent player. Two great guys to follow and some young talent, that's a great start.
The next thing I think is important is forming a strong staff. We're gonna bring in good people, they're gonna help our players become better, help our team become better, and help this organization improves. So when he told me Jacque Vaughn was available as an assistant coach, I kind of jumped on the phone and said "Man, this is a guy that's played 12 years in the NBA." Recently head coach of the Orlando Magic. I got on the phone and said "Jacque, you're coming." It took him a couple days to get back to me, but I'm thrilled to add him to the staff. As we add more people to our staff, I'm excited. I'm excited about that, having a great staff.
I'd also like to thank the Atlanta Hawks organization. You know, Tony Ressler the owner, Mike Budenholzer the vice president/coach, Wes Wilcox the GM. Just a great experience over there. First Class organization, treated my family and me great. It's a big part of the reason I'm here so I'm gonna miss them and thankful for having worked there.
Hopefully I don't get emotional here, too but my coaching tree, that's a big reason why I'm here, and the people I've been around, the mentors, the coaches from my high school years to my NBA career as a coach, it's really what forms you, it's who you are as a coach. I've learned so much from these. So Gus Alfieri, St. Anthony's High School, legendary high school coach. Couple state championships, accomplished author (two, right coach?). He's got two books now. Really it's where I learned the game, the fundamentals, and I am thankful for having played for you. Thankful you could make the trek in from Long Island, I know how tough that is, the LIE and all that. I thank you and your family for coming in. Great stuff.
My college coach Dick Tarrant, who couldn't be here. Local New Jersey guy who created the great program down at the University of Richmond. Many NCAA Tournament upsets, he's a mentor, a guy I still talk to. He's 88 years old. Unfortunately he couldn't make it here today, but he's a big part of just New York development as a player and just watching him coach taught me about leadership and discipline and playing together as a team, so coach, thinking about you today.
Now I'm gonna go to my pro, this'll be a little less emotional. Rick Adelman, I think he's third all time leading wins in the NBA. Rick, I leaned a lot from, we had an excellent team in Houston. He really taught me the famed corner offense he had that he ran in Sacramento and in Houston. Excellent defensive coach, excellent all around coach and a fantastic person, so I'd like to thank him. Next person is Mike D'Antoni., who I was with with the Knicks. Mike, as many of us know here, changed a lot in the NBA. Changed the style of play, changed the way the game is played, his international background and I learned so much from him. A guy that thought out of the box and thinks out of the box, a great coach and I appreciated my time with him.
Lastly, but not least, definitely Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks. Fantastic all around coach and really taught me about building a program and building a culture on and off the court, so thanks coach.
Last, but not least, my family. My two kids, my wife, my seven brothers. I think they heard it was free food here today so that's the reason they're here. My mother, who raised eight boys, she should be having her press conference here. She's the real deal, the real reason. It's tough to raise eight kids, especially eight boys. So mom, good job. We'll be seeing you on the LIRR coming into the games and looking forward to that. So that's kinda my bit. Any questions
Carrino: Thank you Kenny, and one thing that stands out, you not only had a basketball team at home, you had a whole rotation! You had a bench. And you will be requesting a lot of tickets
Carrino: I see, I see that. Leo (Ehrline, the Nets chief administrative relationship officer) and , get ready for that. We're gonna open this up to questions from to the media. Ask that you raise your hand. We have Megan and Eli with the microphones. If you have a question, raise your hand. We will be opening it up for a photo opportunity after the question and answer session, but the Q&A right now we'd like you to ask it right here. So again, raise your hand and Megan and Eli will bring the microphone. Please wait until you have the microphone and also, so the guys know who you are, please state your name and affiliation. Sarah Kustok...
Sarah Kustok, YES Network: Thank you Chris, and Kenny welcome. Can you just walk us through how this came about and what went through your mind when you got the first phone call from Sean and as it all progressed to this point?
Atkinson: I think like I said when I heard Sean got the job and I said it in my opening statement, there's certain people that you gravitate towards in your business and people you share ideas with. Over the years, I've shared ideas with Sean and during the interview process, this is the guy I'd like to work with.
So quite honestly, I said "I wanna pursue this!" So I was very aggressive in pursuing it, and it was a series of conversations with Sean and hashing out his vision of what the Brooklyn Nets are gonna look like in the future, how I would fit in, and quite honestly, how passionate I was for the job. He wanted to know "Do you want this job?" and that was a big part of it.
And meeting with the ownership group, I still didn't have the job yet, but that kinda sealed it. I was very impressed with their presentation, their presence, their understanding of what Sean and his group is trying to build here, so I can't tell you the exact timeline of all that, because we were in the playoffs with the Hawks, but I would say for an interview process, it couldn't have been more pleasant and revealing.
Kustok: And Sean for you, what differentiated Kenny that made you know he was the guy you wanted to be the head coach of your team?
Marks: I think I mentioned a little before it was obviously passion for the job, but it was the person he is. High character and the values he has. The first time I met Kenny I think was about five years ago in San Antonio where the Atlanta Hawks sent a contingent over to San Antonio and they got some work in during the summer and I saw Kenny work firsthand. And you look at the relationships he had formed with the guys on his team and was forming with Spur players. How he was able to get those guys to develop and do the things they were asked was pretty remarkable to me. It was pretty clear cut. I've said before, it's not often you get your number one guy, so I think we're happy to be working together and I'm obviously happy that Kenny is that guy.
Dyrol Joyner, WPIX 11: Congratulations. This question is for both of you. We see the connection with the Spurs, with Budenholzer, Sean, and now Jacque Vaughn. Is it safe to assume that that is a model you may want to pattern the Nets after considering how much success that organization has had over the past 15 years or so?
Atkinson: Can I answer first? Definitely, but it's gonna be different. And I think with the Hawks, Mike Budenholzer learned from the Spurs. It was a different market, different situation, so we changed a fair amount of things. I think coach Budenholzer would say that, but we had a good model, and I think it's similar here. I have the luck of knowing Sean and observing the Spurs and being with the Hawks for four years where we did things a little differently. I think it'll be a combination of both of them, and quite honestly, from my personal experience with the Rockets and Knicks, I have other influences, so the tough part is figuring all that out, how we put that together, but I'm confident that we'll do it.
Marks: I totally agree with what Kenny said. We're lucky to have had great mentors in our lives. Obviously we'll look back at the Spurs as one of them. Kenny will look at Atlanta and the rest of his mentors that he's looked at and touched on around the league. Again, this isn't San Antonio. This isn't Atlanta. This is Brooklyn and we'll do our best to make it our own. As I've said plenty of times, you can take a lot of the values and so forth we've brought growing up and learned from in our various different lives before here. Me specifically in San Antonio, I can take those into any workplace environment, and I know there'll be a certain level of success just because the way things were handled.
Dario Melendez, New York 1: Congratulations, by the way. You mentioned before you had a vision of what the Brooklyn Nets were gonna be and Sean also mentioned that this isn't San Antonio and this isn't the Knicks. What is that vision for this Nets team?
Atkinson: Build. Build patiently, intelligently, and from my standpoint, the message that these guys are gonna be hearing is that we're gonna put a competitive group first and foremost on the floor. Everybody's competitive in the NBA, but to be able to do it 82 games, night after night, minute after minute, play by play, that's a heck of a task, a heck of a challenge, even for NBA players. So that's gonna be first and foremost. A group when the Brooklyn fans if they watch a game, they're looking and saying "Man, that's a competitive group. That group competes." So that's first. The second value is a team that shares the ball and plays together, both offensively and defensively. Playing as a team, we're gonna have to do this as a group. And I would say thirdly, a group that has high character, that's gonna be great with the fans. You're gonna have an experience with that, and Sean Kilpatrick is like "Man, these are good guys. High character guys. They play with great spirit and great integrity." So to me, those are, without getting too basketball specific, those are kind of big picture ideas.
Pat O'Keefe, News 12 Brooklyn: Hey Kenny. As you looked ahead to this next step in your career eventually coming, how much were you aware of this organization as a potential landing spot for you and what were your thoughts as you looked at it from afar?
Atkinson: It's funny. As an assistant coach, I made it a rule like "I'm not thinking about head coaching jobs." You might say "Well no way, that's not true," but I felt like if I focused on the Atlanta Hawks and us doing well, I just felt the more we had success, the more chances that maybe I'd get a chance at one of these prestigious jobs. In Atlanta, we played the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs and they gave us a heck of a run and I realized that there's good players here and a good program. And then I walked into Barclays Center and was like "Wow, this is pretty cool. This is something special." So I was aware, especially being a New Yorker too, when this job came open, man this is something I'd like to pursue. I hope that answers your question.
Brian Mahoney, Associated Press: Sean, I think the Nets have already had something like five coaches since they've been in Brooklyn. Just in your view, when building a program, how important is it to have someone in place who is gonna stick for a few years and that has to be a starting point to make a lasting program?
Marks: Well I would hope every organization starts out that way with their obvious choices. "He's gonna be here and we're gonna build this together." With Kenny, I knew that's somebody I could have a partnership with. We're gonna be collaborating the whole time. It's not front office and coaching staff. No differential there. We're in the same rooms together. As Kenny's mentioned before, we're in that foxhole together and that's what I look for in a partner. I'm glad Kenny's here and we'll do this together, but it's not just the two of us. It's the staff, not only I've put around myself, but what Kenny's putting around him that's gonna be important and lead us into the future, hopefully for a long time.
Sarah Kustok, YES Network: Kenny we hear the word "player development" associated with your name so often. When you think about what's made you excellent at player development, what are some of those things that you point to that sets you apart from the rest?
Atkinson: I could give an hour long clinic on this, because I think the misconception around player development is just a coach working with a player on the floor for 30 minutes or shooting with him. It is a total approach to helping a player improve, and that goes from on-court work, to the weight room, to nutrition, to player performance, to off the court habits. It encompasses so many things and you need a great staff because it's not one coach that's gonna do it. You need a great organization to develop a player so putting all those mechanisms in place, that's the challenge right now for us to give these guys all the help they need to become better and I really think what player development is is caring. You care, you really care. We have the staff, from your equipment manager, to your head coach, to your general manager, you care about these guys. And when you care for them and treat them the right way, they will play to maximum ability.
Ryan Ruocco, YES Network: I know Mr. Prokhorov has talked a lot about New York and this market and how this was going to be important with this next hierarchy to sort of have people and players who understand and appreciate how things might be a little different here. You're a guy that's coached here, you grew up here, you know this area. What tangible ways do you think this market affects basketball in this area?
Atkinson: Good question. I was thinking the other day like "Brooklyn is basketball." When my dad grew up, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers. They were here. When I grew up, it was Pearl Washington, Ed Davender, all the greats, Chris Mullin. Brooklyn really spoke to me, and man, I'm gonna go into the park in Brooklyn and play basketball. You walk around and you see the guys playing three-on-three in the outdoor playgrounds. I do agree with Mr. Prokhorov. I think Sean agrees. I think everyone agrees that New York's a different market and we have those discussions when we're talking about players, staff, the ability to thrive here, and perform here is different. So I think as an organization, we're very aware of that.
Carrino: Okay, well, we appreciate all your questions. We're going to clear the stage except for coach Atkinson and Sean will have some photo opportunities and we appreciate you being here for this special day. Kenny Atkinson, the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.