The rumors were circulating about Scott Brooks getting fired from the moment the Oklahoma City Thunder failed to make the NBA playoffs. A week to mull it over, and Sam Presti pulled the trigger. Fair or not, it’s done, and now the team is trying to go after some big college basketball names to take over what is a very talented group of players, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the forefront.
Is it Scott Brooks’ fault that Kevin Durant played just 27 regular season games this season? That Serge Ibaka also went down with an injury close to the finish line? No. Brooks had no control over that. But the things he could control over the years which goes beyond simply relying on the natural talents of Durant and Westbrook developing and improving, he messed up.
The defense deteriorated this season but that might be about front office moves from Sam Presti and not just Brooks himself. The worst thing was the offense. Letting Russell Westbrook run wild and do whatever he likes on the floor isn’t something you need a coach for. Just give the team the ball and he’ll do the rest. The same goes for Durant.
Since losing to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA finals, the Thunder have gone backwards. Maybe Brooks was dealt a bad card by Presti (James Harden trade), but he has also failed to create an offense that relies on more than simply letting Durant and Westbrook figure things out for themselves. It is tempting with that kind of talent and ego (especially Westbrook) at your disposal, but Brooks should have done a better job, probably.
So who comes next? College names are being thrown around. Kevin Ollie from Connecticut, Billy Donovan from Florida, Bill Self from Kansas. All NCAA champions as head coaches, and all continuously linked to jobs in the NBA. It’s rumored that Presti wanted to bring Brad Stevens over in 2012 after losing in the finals with Brooks getting completely outcoached and looking in meltdown mode during the four losses and especially in the press conferences, but the decision was made to keep him.
It’s hard to believe no one consulted Kevin Durant and maybe Russell Westbrook before firing Brooks. The Thunder need to do whatever they can to keep these two players in the next couple of season (Durant is a free agent in 2016), which means letting them in on the decision making. Durant’s Instagram post suggests he might feel sorry for Brooks, but didn’t exactly stand up for the guy, which makes his farewell feel like a cover up for the front office.
Brooks has the highest winning percentage among NBA coaches with more than 500 games and no NBA titles. He’ll find a job pretty soon. Probably with the Orlando Magic or the Denver Nuggets, unless being an analyst appeals to him for a season or more, taking a breather from the position after seven seasons. He might have gotten a raw deal in terms of trades and injuries, but he didn’t exactly help himself by showing nothing of his own on this team for the past few years.