The Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks on April 22.
Brooks’ case could very well be an example of wrong man out, an example prevalent in many organizations nowadays. Should the Thunder have fired him?
The Thunder made Brooks’ dismissal official via a press release on their official website. Their executive vice president and general manager, Sam Presti, said it was “an extremely difficult decision”:
This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels. Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member.
As we all know, this past year we had unique and challenging circumstances and as I have conveyed, not many people could have accomplished what Scott and this team were able to.
Therefore, it is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain.
We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and out ourselves in the best position next season as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program.
We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to construct an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City.
A source told Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday Presti flew to California to break the news to Brooks. A separate update from Oklahoma City’s official website says the decision was brought about by “long days of thought and evaluation” since the Thunder’s season ended last week.
They finished 45-37 (.549) and missed the playoffs for the first time in six years with 2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin Durant missing significant time this season due to a foot injury, per Wojnarowski.
Sources told Yahoo! Sports on April 22 college basketball coaches Billy Donovan and Kevin Ollie of the Florida Gators and Connecticut Huskies, respectively, are in the running for Oklahoma City’s now-vacant head coaching position.
Wojnarowski says Donovan and Presti have “a longstanding friendship” while Ollie was teammates with Durant and Russell Westbrook during his playing days with the Thunder.
As for Brooks, he is expected to be seriously considered for the vacant head coaching jobs the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets have, per Yahoo! Sports.
The Case For Scott Brooks
First, it would be appropriate to begin with Durant posting a tribute for Brooks on Instagram on Wednesday:
Consider the fact Durant (who’s always been a 20-point-plus scorer) had his second-best statistical season in 2009-10, Brooks’ first year as the Thunder’s head coach. That year, Durant averaged 30.1 points per game.
Durant then went on to destroy opposing defenses every year with Brooks at the helm, culminating in his MVP season in 2013-14 when he averaged a career-best 32.0 points per game.
For KD to give Brooks plenty of credit for his growth on and off the court says a great deal about the latter’s coaching abilities. Durant was a 21-year-old kid when Brooks took over, and now he’s on the cusp of turning 27. That’s six years of wisdom Brooks imparted on an NBA MVP.
Give that some thought if you will.
Durant told NewsOK.com’s Anthony Slater during his exit interview last week he’s “definitely pissed” at the Thunder’s critics. Imagine how he feels right now knowing his beloved head coach is no longer by his side on the Thunder sidelines.
According to the Thunder’s official website, Brooks is also credited with the development of Durant’s teammates Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook, who had his best season in 2014-15 (28.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG).
Brooks finishes his seven-year head coaching stint with the Thunder with a 338-207 (.620) win-loss record. He was the man behind the Thunder’s four straight Northwest Division titles, three Western Conference Finals appearances (2011, 2012, 2014) and an NBA Finals appearance (2012).
He orchestrated a 27-game turnaround (from 23 wins to 50 wins) in his first year as Thunder head coach in 2009-10,per LandOfBasketball.com. From there on out, Oklahoma City would be a sure bet to win at least 50 games. Had the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season been a full one, the team would have won 50 games or more.
Former Golden State Warriors head coach and current ESPN analyst P.J. Carlesimo said on the network (via NewsOK.com) the Thunder made a “terrible decision” when they let Brooks go on Wednesday:
They made it impossible for Scott Brooks to coach. Terrible, terrible decision. He did a great job. If they were gonna do this they should have…what would have happened if Kevin Durant played and they were a 1-, 2- or 3-seed, which they would have been and still been playing? Would they’ve changed direction because they don’t like the way it’s going?
It’s just a very poor decision; a very unfortunate decision.
Carlesimo is right. Had Durant not missed 55 games due to a nagging foot injury, the Thunder would have been at least a Top 4 seed in the West. Brooks has always kept the Thunder competitive with the players at his disposal.
The Case Against Scott Brooks
There really isn’t any.
Since he started coaching the Thunder six years ago, we’ve never seen Scott Brooks make headlines for the wrong reasons. He’s gotten along with his players, and it’s clear they like him and the system he had in place.
In a team with two bona fide superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Brooks was able to keep any potential egos in check. Lesser coaches would have sparked a mutiny. Brooks knew how to push the right buttons.
The Thunder finished with 45 victories this season. Brooks’ dismissal would have been justified if Oklahoma City won that many number of games and failed to make the postseason with Durant in tow.
And let’s not forget, Westbrook missed 15 games early in the season due to a broken hand. Brooks did an admirable job of keeping the Thunder’s ship afloat, and even Presti mentioned that in his statement.
For Presti to say at this point in time that Brooks’ firing is an “assessment” doesn’t hold enough water. The Thunder are primed to contend in the West next season with Durant’s return and a beefed-up supporting cast which includes Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, D.J. Augustin and Andre Roberson. You’ve got a head coach with a proven track record of success. Why fire him?
In the end, we won’t really know the exact reason why.
All we know is this: The Oklahoma City Thunder should not have fired Scott Brooks.
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all stats are current as of April 23 and are courtesy of ESPN.com.