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Jarrett Allen: Whoever hires Kenny Atkinson will get ‘a hell of a coach’

NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrett Allen left no doubt about how he feels about his old coach, Kenny Atkinson.

“[Atkinson would bring] what he brought with us,” Allen said Thursday via Zoom. “We came in — or I came into the Nets — and we weren’t making our mark in the NBA.

“You could see every year that I was with him, and every year that he coached us, we kept getting better and better, and the players that were under him kept developing and developing and bringing us more confidence. So whatever team he goes to, they’re going to get a hell of a coach.”

Allen is one of several Nets, current and former, who Atkinson and his staff developed or resurrected, players like Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell. Atkinson may also hold a special place in Allen’s heart because once Sean Marks replaced Atkinson with Jacque Vaughn, Allen, 22, went to the bench and DeAndre Jordan, 32, went into the starting lineup. Since then, of course, the pandemic struck and Jordan tested positive for the coronavirus, ending his season.

The Knicks have interviewed Atkinson twice for their open job and although Tom Thibodeau remains the front-runner, Ian Begley reported Thursday that Leon Rose has yet to engage in contract talks with any candidate.

New York has a number of high draft picks who haven’t developed expected and its development program has been excoriated by critics. Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, both lottery picks, have disappointed and although R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have played well, both have had consistency issues.

Allen admitted that if the Knicks do hire Atkinson, it would be weird but he would use it as a motivational factor.

“It [would] be a little weird. He’s been my NBA coach really all my NBA career, so seeing him with the rival basically, it would be kind of weird playing against him,” Allen admitted. “But [it’d] kind of make you play harder knowing that was your old coach. You want to show him how much you’ve improved.”

Both Atkinson and Thibodeau are both former Knicks assistants who didn’t get a head coaching job until after they left New York.