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Nets’ Kenny Atkinson says being a head coach ‘can be lonely,’ likens it to being a principal

Kenny Atkinson, Nets

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has only been at the helm of the team for two seasons, but it hasn’t taken him very long to realize how his profession can be much like a school principal.

“It can be lonely,” said Atkinson of his profession, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. “It’s lonely in the sense that, when you’re not an assistant you almost become like the principal. The teachers don’t want to talk to you. You’re not part of the inside jokes anymore. It’s a credit to our staff, and I was the same way, they have such respect for the position that you don’t want to mess with it. I miss that a little bit. It’s lonely. It’s more lonely than being an assistant. That’s a big one. I don’t think people realize that.”

Atkinson’s nights are often short-lived, starting his mornings as early as 4 or 5 a.m. — a demanding routine that is as lonely as it is constant throughout a long 82-game regular season.

“It varies, especially with the season up and down,” Atkinson said. “We get in at 3 a.m. from a flight. That’s been a little bit of a struggle because sleep science is like … I try to ignore those articles. But I am, as I’m getting a little older, being a little more conscious of that. I think when I was younger I was on four or five hours of sleep a night with no problem on a back-to-back, get in at 3 a.m. and wake up at 7 a.m. I’ve curtailed that a little.”

Atkinson can be found walking along Atlantic Avenue if the weather calls for it, passing by his children’s school and playground to give them a wave and get a hug before continuing his 25-minute walk on his way to the Barclays Center.

“I start thinking of the game plan, the out-of-timeout plays,” Atkinson said of his walks. “I start thinking about matchups. I’d be better off having walking meetings rather than sitting in a chair. It just fits my personality better.”

Atkinson is still able to find enough family time, but the grind of being an NBA head coach can be tough. The 51-year-old went from sporting a mere 20 wins in his first season with the Nets to 28 this past season, hoping another eight-game or better increment is on its way with a healthy roster.