- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Assistant coach Kenny Atkinson will be leaving Mike Woodson's bench to head to Atlanta, a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.
Atkinson was integral in the development of several young Knicks, most notably departed point guard Jeremy Lin, so his move leaves a large void on the Knicks staff.
Lin credited Atkinson with helping him develop while he was stuck on the end of the Knicks' bench during the first six weeks of the 2011-12 season. Atkinson continued to tutor Lin throughout his meteoric rise.
"I mean this guy wakes up at 6 a.m. every morning,” Lin said last February. “I’ll text after a game at midnight, 1 o’clock when I go home and I’ll say, ‘Hey can I look at those turnovers. Can I look at the upcoming team? How they run pick-and-rolls?’ And he’ll have the film ready when I walk into the facility the next morning.
“When I wasn’t playing much, we were working out before practice, and after practice he was picking apart my game, teaching me what it’s like to play in Coach D’Antoni’s system.”
Atkinson is highly regarded around the league.
The Long Island native spent four seasons on the Knicks' bench, serving under both Mike D'Antoni and Woodson. He and Herb Williams were the only holdovers when Woodson took over for D'Antoni in March.
Woodson added assistants Darrell Walker and Jim Todd to his staff. It was clear that both coaches were ahead of Atkinson on the depth chart, as Atkinson sat in the row of seats behind the bench during games.
A source close to Atkinson said he's expected to have more responsibility on Larry Drew's staff in Atlanta. "He'll be on the bench and not behind it" with the Hawks, the source said.
The New York Daily News first reported Atkinson's move.
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