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Could Kenny Atkinson return to coaching with Knicks?

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Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Kenny Atkinson will be interviewed for the vacant New York Knicks coaching job, according to various reports Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

“That’s the plan,” one source “with knowledge of the proceedings” told Ian Begley of SNY.

Atkinson, who left the Nets by “mutual agreement” the week before the league shut down, is considered one of three candidates to be the sixth Knicks coach in six years. He is not the leading candidate, however. That’s Tom Thibodeau, who coached the Bulls and Timberwolves before being let go in January 2019. There’s also some sentiment for Mike Miller, who has been the Knicks interim coach for most of this season. Other candidates haven’t been ruled out, according to the reports.

All three —Atkinson, Thibodeau and Miller— have been Knicks assistants at one point or another, Atkinson most famously during LinSanity in 2012. Atkinson was give the lion’s share of credit for developing Jeremy Lin. Development, of course, is his calling card.

For Atkinson, there’s no rush in getting a job. He was given a two-year contract extension —and a raise— prior to the 2019 playoffs. So, he will continue to be paid by the Nets unless and until he gets a new job over the course of the contract. Sean Marks cited a need for a new voice in the Nets locker room. There was also widespread speculation that Atkinson had communications issues with some of the Nets’ newly acquired stars.

Although the Knicks current roster is young and thus an ideal canvass for Atkinson’s development skills, Thibodeau has an advantage in his longer tenure —and better record— as a head coach. He does not have a reputation for developing players, but he does have a long term relationship with Knicks president Leon Rose. Thibodeau was represented by CAA, the big sports and entertainment agency that was headed by Rose until he was hired by MSG.

Both the Nets and Knicks are in the market for head coaches, but sources on both teams have said their coaching search will not begin in earnest until there’s a decision on how the rest of the season will play out. The Nets are guaranteed a spot at Walt Disney World under any of the proposed formats being discussed. The Knicks, on the other hand, will return to play only if the league agrees to bring all 30 teams to the Orlando “bubble.”

There’s been little to no news on the Nets coaching search other than Sean Marks suggestion that he wants to see a larger sample of what interim coach Jacque Vaughn and his staff can do when play resumes. Although there was some speculation that Thibodeau could be a Nets coaching candidate, insiders have downplayed the possibility.