Why Kenny Atkinson and the Knicks may be a perfect match

Why Kenny Atkinson and the Knicks may be a perfect match

Leon Rose, meet Kenny Atkinson.

The new Knicks president was likely already plenty familiar with Atkinson, who was represented by Creative Artists Agency (where Rose was co-head of the basketball division before he took the Knicks job), but now the newly fired Nets coach may be viewed in a different light by Rose — as a potential coaching candidate.

Atkinson was lauded for his role in developing young Nets such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris in four seasons in Brooklyn before getting fired in a Saturday-morning shocker. He wouldn’t have to look far to find another team in need of developing its young core, and the Knicks presumably will be looking for a new head coach this summer after interim coach Mike Miller finishes out the rest of a seventh straight season without a playoff appearance.

“A coach doesn’t like to see another coach lose his job, particularly — Kenny’s an outstanding coach,” said Miller, who took over for the fired David Fizdale in December. “I feel for him and I know he’s well-respected in the NBA.”

Rose’s list of coaching candidates is expected to include Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and perhaps even Mark Jackson. But the 52-year-old Atkinson, a Knicks assistant from 2008-2012, is another intriguing possibility.

Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson; Knicks president Leon Rose
Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson; Knicks president Leon RosePaul J. Bereswill, Corey Sipkin

“I don’t know much, but just following [Atkinson] throughout his time with the Nets, he did a great job of being a leader of that organization and spearheading the rebuild,” Knicks forward Julius Randle told The Post on Saturday after practice. “So I’m sure he’ll be highly coveted.”

Randle hasn’t played for Atkinson, but acknowledged his strong reputation across the NBA.

“It seems like he’s very well respected within players, within the league — players he coached and players he didn’t coach,” Randle said. “I know I respected him.”

What Atkinson was able to do with the Nets’ young players did not go unnoticed, especially for Randle, who saw his former Lakers teammate D’Angelo Russell thrive last season with the Nets and become an All-Star in the process.

“D-Lo, he had him and turned him into an incredible player,” Randle said. “D-Lo enjoyed his time with him, for sure.”

Atkinson made his mark while he was with the Knicks under head coach Mike D’Antoni. The Long Island native was largely credited with playing a key role in Linsanity in 2012, when Jeremy Lin exploded onto the scene.

While there may be other jobs that open up by the end of the season — the 76ers and Bulls among them — the Knicks could be intriguing to Atkinson. He would not have to move far and there is young talent for him to mold as he has done at his past stops.

The Nets were coming off a 21-61 season when they hired Atkinson in 2016. The Knicks are limping down the stretch of a 19-44 campaign, their seventh straight losing season. Atkinson, who was credited with building a strong culture in Brooklyn, could do the same for the Knicks with a second chance as head coach.

Atkinson’s work with point guards, as a former point guard himself, could be especially appealing. The Knicks have been on a seemingly never-ending search for their point guard of the future, with Frank Ntilikina (21) and Dennis Smith Jr. (22) on the roster behind veteran Elfrid Payton. Atkinson gushed about Ntilikina in November before he played against the Nets.

“He’s always given the Nets trouble,” Atkinson said. “He just has. His pressure defense, he’s changed games, he’s won games against us, almost single-handedly. So I know he’s on the scouting report. We understand the defensive presence he represents and then I think he’s getting more confidence offensively from what I’ve seen from watching film. So he’s a young player, a growing player, that’s starting to play well.”

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