Welcome to the Daily NBA Fix for Monday, June 2, a day we await word on the fate of Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Brooks has been the most successful coach in the Thunder’s admittedly brief history (I mean, the only other guy was P.J. Carlesimo, who went 1-12), but there are rumblings that he could be fired after the Thunder lost in six games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
For his part, Brooks told ESPN.com’s Royce Young he’s not listening to his critics.
“I’ve had a lot of valuable lessons from my mother and she’s always told me this: ‘You do your job every day and live with the results,’” Brooks said. “They say you can’t worry about what ‘they’ say. You never even meet those people.”
Most of the grumbling centers around the fact that a team with superstars in MVP Kevin Durant and All-Star Russell Westbrook should have accomplished more in five straight trips to the playoffs than one loss in the Finals, two defeats in the conference finals, one exit in the conference semifinals and one first-round departure from the postseason.
Durant doesn’t agree.
“That’s our guy. I’m riding with him. I’m riding with him. It’s easy for everybody on the outside to criticize, but once you’re in the fire, once you’re in that arena, those are the guys that matter. The guys that share the blood, sweat and tears, and sleepless nights, those are the guys that count, those are the guys that matter in our book. Everybody on the outside really doesn’t.”
Westbrook feels a great deal of loyalty toward Brooks, as well.
“Ever since I’ve been here and Scotty became the coach, he’s done a great job in having confidence in me personally. There’s times when things have gone south and he’s the only one that always, always had my back, regardless of what happened. People saying I was doing this or doing that, being selfish, being that, he was always the first person to step up and have my back and support me regardless of what’s going on. I think he does a great job of always staying positive and trusting in our guys and trusting in our team.”
Brooks, the 2009-10 NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Thunder to a 27-win improvement from 23-59 to 50-32 and their first playoff berth after moving from Seattle, will be 49 at the end of July—still young for a coach.
And he also is well acquainted with overcoming long odds. A 5-foot-11 point guard, Brooks bounced from TCU to San Joaquin Delta College to UC Irvine, where he averaged 23.8 points per game as a senior in 1986-87.
He was ignored in the draft in 1987 and played a season for the Albany Patroons in the old Continental Basketball Association before catching on with the Philadelphia 76ers in training camp in 1988.
That began a nomadic 10-year journey through the NBA that included stops in Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, New York, Cleveland and the L.A. Clippers before he was waived out of the league in October 1999.
Brooks was not a star—far from it. In 680 career NBA games, he started only seven times. He was the 3-point shooter off the bench, earning a championship ring as a spare part for the 1993-94 Houston Rockets.
There was a one-year gig as a player-coach for the Los Angeles Stars in the American Basketball Association in 2000-01 before entering coaching full-time as head coach of the ABA’s Southern California Surf.
He jumped to the NBA as an assistant from there, spending three seasons in Denver and one in Sacramento before joining Carlesimo’s staff in Seattle in 2007.
Brooks’ .633 winning percentage ranks only behind Karl’s .719 in franchise history and his 39 postseason wins are one behind Karl’s franchise high of 40.
But the same loyalty praised by Westbrook could be part of what could lead to his downfall. Brooks is most often criticized for his starting lineup, particularly his commitment to veteran center Kendrick Perkins.
He did, however, sit down shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha for the final two games of the Thunder’s first-round series against Memphis and again after Game 2 of their Western Conference Finals series against San Antonio. Sefolosha was a DNP-CD for Games 3 and 4 and played only eight minutes in the final two games.
But for fans of the Thunder who are clamoring for Brooks’ departure, I’ll leave you with this: The grass is seldom greener on the other side of the fence. Just ask your division rivals in Denver about that.
The Daily NBA Fix will focus on the happenings around the Association. But first a video, specifically on Oklahoma City rookie center Steven Adams, the first New Zealander to play in the NBA: