Scott Brook’s run as OKC head coach came to an end today as the team has fired him.
The Thunder announced that they have fired Scott Brooks after five and a half seasons on the bench. Brooks leaves Oklahoma City with a 338-207 record, including five playoff appearances, three conference finals, and an NBA Finals trip in 2012. His postseason record is 39-34.
Brooks brought stability to a franchise that had just moved from Seattle and was looking to get its legs beneath them in their new arena and city of Oklahoma City. The roster was in transition and not very good outside of their newest draftee at the time, Kevin Durant. Brooks, along with GM Sam Presti, slowly built and made over the roster into the vision they had for what the team would look like one day and one that would be able to compete for championships on a regular basis.
By the time the 2011-12 season rolled around, the Thunder were in the NBA Finals, going toe to toe with the eventual champions that year, the Miami Heat. Though they lost in those finals, they had marked a journey from the very bottom of the league all the way to the very near top of it. Brooks was rightfully praised along with the players on turning around the franchise’s fortunes in a relatively short amount of time.
As with rising expectations though, comes more pressure. For the most part, I thought Brooks handled that pressure great and was able to stay level headed and even more importantly, not let his team feel that pressure and just focus on basketball and the task at hand. From afar, it looked like that was the case as his team always looked focused and well prepared, whether it was a regular season game in October or a high-level playoff game in early May. You knew as an opponent you would have to bring your A game if you planned on knocking off the Thunder, especially in their raucous home environment.
Brook’s ability to develop players was one of the hallmarks of his tenure with the franchise. He was able to accomplish developing and assisting in the growth of Kevin Durant’s game, and Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden to an extent. All were pieces to the team that would become superstars and the cornerstones of this five plus year run of big success. Not every coach in the NBA is blessed to have this very important skill in team building.
His even-keeled approach with his players also was a big plus as the players could always count on Brooks being able to stand tall and confident in any game situation that they got into, good or bad. That positive attitude and confidence no question rubbed off on his players and that in turn led them to being more poised and collected when big moments in games approached.
The buzz going around the league for the early candidates for the OKC opening are Kevin Ollie and Billy Donovan from the college ranks. Ollie was with the Thunder when they were just getting started in Oklahoma City and is considered a favorite of Kevin Durant. He has the NBA pedigree from his playing days and has had success at UConn, winning a national title in his first season. He has said he does not plan to pursue any opportunities at this time, but that can change very quickly with an offer from the Thunder.
Billy Donovan has been one of college basketball’s great coaches for many years, having won two National Championships and keeping Florida as a program always in the hunt for SEC titles and a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament. He briefly took the Magic job before having a change of heart and returning to Florida. There is no real connection between him and this Thunder franchise at all and would be a risk on both sides to take a chance on this partnership.
It will be interesting to see how quick OKC goes about this process and who they wind up choosing to head up this team.