Cory Wright of the Nets staff wrote this weekend about Kenny Atkinson's family ... seven brothers, all of whom know the game and aren't afraid to let you know it. As Wright noted, "Eight boys divided by two bedrooms. And one basketball hoop."
Kenny is the second youngest and ultimately, the most successful at the game, playing 14 years, then coaching for another nine before joining the Nets last month. One reason, he's succeeded is that he gets a lot of advice. Kenny said he fears the onslaught of text messages when the Nets lose.
"I might have to change my number." he joked.
The new Nets coach wasn't just a player back in Huntington, Long Island. He was a critic even at age six!
Steve, 10 years older, recalls what he was like. Rather than play tag or run around the bleachers, Wright notes, Kenny would just sit and watch intently, writing out who he thought the star of the game was after every contest. And it wasn’t always his brother.
"Six years old and he’d critique me," Steve joked to Wright. "Sometimes not in the nicest way either. He had that vision for it at a young age and a love for the game. Most kids, you bring them to a game and they are running all over the place, he just sat there and watched, never moved an inch. I’ll never forget that. I can still picture him watching."
His sense of competition was also honed at home. He and his brothers shared two bedrooms. Who got which bunk had to be settled as more and more brothers took their place.
"We used to fight over who had to go on the top and who on the bottom. We loved it, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. We had our battles like brothers have, but today we’re all close."
The brothers were also wowed by his language skills. Once in Naples Steve and their late father were stunned to see Atkinson deliver a post-game interview in Italian. Learning the language was also about competition, getting a leg up in a culture while playing in a foreign country.
"His experiences are just so much different than the usual basketball player and coach," Steve said. "Wherever he was, whatever country he was [in], he’s going to immerse himself into the culture, which he’ll do here. He’ll be a Brooklynite, he really enjoys that."