NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Injured point guard Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks looks on from the bench against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
When Mike D'Antoni fled New York in March, he took most of his coaching staff with him. Kenny Atkinson was the lone member of D'Antoni's traveling posse* to stick around for the beginning of the Mike Woodson era. It was a curious wrinkle to the whole ordeal, but one that could easily be explained by Atkinson's close relationship with and mentorship of Jeremy Lin. Lin, as you may have heard, is no longer a Knick, so this report from Frank Isola comes as no surprise:
Kenny Atkinson, the Knicks highly regarded assistant coach whom Jeremy Lin credited for his meteoric rise last season, is close to a deal to join the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff, the Daily News has learned.
According to a source close to Atkinson, he is leaving the Knicks for a position on Larry Drew’s bench. Atkinson was the Knicks player development coach and sat behind the bench at games.
Isola goes on to claim that Atkinson has previously been at odds with James Dolan for such hideous transgressions as speaking to the media and pursuing another job, which sounds about right. With his coach friends and his chief pupil all gone, you can't blame the guy for wanting out of this sketchy organization. Through no fault of his own, Atkinson's presence from this point forward would probably have been a little awkward for all involved.
If Atkinson's departure does come to pass, it'll be interesting to see how (and if) the Knicks replace him. Atkinson was always regarded as the Knicks' best advocate for young, developing players, but they don't really...ya know...have many young players anymore, so a "player development coach" might not be necessary. A "player refurbishment coach" might suit this roster better. We'll see.
Update: Just to be clear, Herb Williams also stuck around after D'Antoni left and is still on New York's staff. I wasn't including Herb as a "D'Antoni guy" since he was around long before that era and has survived like nine rounds of dismissals over the years. He'll be assistant coaching the Knicks long after we're all dead.
*Update: I was totally wrong-- and have always been-- about Atkinson being a D'Antoni guy. He'd never been on a D'Antoni staff before joining the Knicks. Of course, I don't find this out until the day I realize Atkinson is leaving. Oh well. Thanks to Jason Bee for pointing that out.