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Brooklyn Nets split with Atkinson, Vaughn takes over as coach

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New York (AFP)

The Brooklyn Nets, battling to keep an NBA playoff spot, split with coach Kenny Atkinson on Saturday and said assistant Jacque Vaughn would guide the club for the remainder of the season.

Atkinson went 118-190 in nearly four seasons coaching the Nets, whose only playoff appearance under him came last year and ended with a first-round exit, losing to Philadelphia.

The decision came hours after the Nets beat visiting San Antonio 139-120, improving to 28-34, seventh in the Eastern Conference. That's one game ahead of Orlando in the eighth and final playoff position and five games ahead of Washington in ninth with 20 games remaining in the season.

"After discussions with Kenny about the progress of the season, we mutually agreed that a coaching change would be in the best interest of the team," said Nets general manager Sean Marks, a former NBA player from New Zealand.

"This was an extremely difficult decision. However, the organization believes it is one that is necessary at this time."

The Nets signed star free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last year but Atkinson never got the chance to coach them together.

Durant has not played since suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in last year's NBA Finals while with Golden State and Irving was limited to 20 games this season due to numerous injuries, the Nets announcing Tuesday he has undergone season-ending shoulder surgery.

The full-time Nets spot for next season and beyond therefore figures to be one of the league's prized jobs for coaches, although Vaughn will have the chance to show what he can do without them over at least the final five weeks of the current campaign.

Vaughn, 45, played 12 NBA seasons for Utah, Atlanta, Orlando, the Nets and the San Antonio Spurs, winning an NBA crown with the Spurs in 2007. He served as an assistant with the Spurs and Orlando before joining the Nets' staff in 2016.

Atkinson, 52, played in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands from 1990 to 2004 and spent four years each as an assistant with New York and Atlanta before taking over the Nets in 2016.

"Kenny was instrumental in developing our players and building the identity and culture we have become known for over these past four seasons," Marks said. "The foundation he helped put into place here is one that we will continue to build on in the coming seasons."

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