Kevin Durant questioned Nets' championship culture in meeting that led to Kenny Atkinson's departure

There was no one thing that resulted in Kenny Atkinson’s departure from the Brooklyn Nets. Instead, it was a combination of factors — including frustrated players and Atkinson’s own feelings — that led to Atkinson leaving the team.

Of all those elements, one stands out more than the rest. During a meeting in which Atkinson and Nets players aired their grievances, Kevin Durant questioned whether the team was building a championship culture under Atkinson, according to of Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic.

The Nets held a spirited team meeting, according to sources, starting with several veterans expressing that they wanted to see Spencer Dinwiddie play like the player they know, and later with people in the room calling out Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan. Then perhaps the most critical thing of all happened: Sources say Durant chimed in, pointing out that the Nets must improve their habits and that they were not building the proper culture traits necessary for a title contender.

Durant’s comments weren’t the final nail in the coffin for Atkinson, but — given his star status — Durant’s opinions carry a lot of weight within the organization.

Kenny Atkinson felt dejected after meeting with Nets players

Those words — and other criticisms from that meeting — stuck with Atkinson. The coach could have returned to the team fired up and ready to make significant adjustments. Instead, Atkinson decided he had already lost some of the team’s best players, and that it would be best if he moved on.

For Atkinson, the decision was more about going out on his terms. He saw the writing on the wall and expected to be fired eventually, so he just ripped off the bandaid a few weeks early. Atkinson did this despite having two years left on his contract.

With Atkinson gone, the Nets named Jacque Vaughn as the team’s interim coach. Vaughn immediately addressed one of the players’ concerns, moving DeAndre Jordan into the starting lineup.

Where do the Nets go now?

While Vaughn has vowed to correct Atkinson’s mistakes, there’s no guarantee that will work in the long run. For now, Vaughn is just an interim coach. Unless he makes major strides with the team — and its stars — he’ll be replaced during the offseason.

In that scenario, the Nets will likely look for a coach who can deal with championship expectations. Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to bat for Tyronn Lue, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a title in 2016.

That may wind up being the deciding factor. Durant and Irving may not be running the Nets, but their opinions matter. Whatever coach is going to motivate and get the best out of both players will be the right choice. It’s going to help if Durant and Irving already respect and admire the person the Nets bring in.

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