The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Wednesday they have relieved Scott Brooks of his duties, ending rampant speculation about one of the NBA‘s most embattled coaches.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported the news. Zach Harper of CBS Sports passed along a statement from the team:
Brooks, 49, went 338-207 in parts of seven seasons on the bench. Taking over for the fired P.J. Carlesimo early in the 2008-09 campaign, Brooks helped develop Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook into perennial All-Stars as the Thunder became regular title contenders. Oklahoma City made the playoffs in each of his first five full seasons, including an NBA Finals berth in 2012. His winning percentage currently ranks 20th in NBA history.
Despite the regular-season success, Brooks has also drawn near-constant criticism for his game tactics and inability to push a talented roster over the edge.
It’s ironic, then, that Brooks is fired after a season in which he shoulders little (if any) blame. Preseason championship contenders again, the Thunder were wrecked by injuries on their way to a 45-37 finish. Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka all missed extended time with ailments; the three were limited to just 27 games together. Durant, in particular, saw his attempt to repeat his MVP award thwarted by three procedures on his fractured foot.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
“He rallied us,” Durant said, per Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press (via U.S. News and World Report). “He made sure everybody was emotionally stable. A lot of guys in and out of the lineup, and he kept everybody together. That’s what a coach is supposed to do. I can’t really say nothing about it because he did his job. He did his best job he can do, and I’m proud of him.”
Brooks’ ability to keep his players’ heads level was apparently not enough to satisfy owner Clayton Bennett, who is undoubtedly beginning to feel championship pressure. Durant will become an unrestricted free agent next summer at a time when the salary cap will likely take an unprecedented one-year leap.
With Westbrook following Durant a year later, the time for waiting around is over. Brooks is merely the first major move in what should be an interesting offseason for the Thunder.
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