It seems for Scott Brooks, it was more about the future than the past.
According to ESPN, in a somewhat surprising move, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti has fired Brooks after a difficult season that saw the Thunder on the outside looking in to the playoffs. Brooks and the Thunder are used to being in the playoffs, and have been for the last four years, and five of the last six years. However, with big injuries to star guard Russell Westbrook, forward Serge Ibaka, and a huge injury to forward Kevin Durant, Brooks had a hard time keeping his charges winning.
But, that’s what Brooks did, until the end of the season, where the Thunder missed the playoffs by losing the last game of the season, allowing the New Orleans Pelicans to gain entry by beating the San Antonio Spurs.
Brooks, during an annual exit interview, indicated that he clearly thought he would be back for next season. Brooks had one year left on his contract, so there didn’t seem to be any reason to worry.
But general manager Presti is, if not smart, definitely marching to the beat of his own drummer. Presti, famous for trading the very popular James Harden to Houston a few years ago, didn’t feel comfortable with Brooks being in the last year, while Durant had one more year before free agency, and Westbrook two more years. So, time to change things up a bit and let Brooks go.
USA Today is reporting that, though most of the Thunder players were shocked, they also seemed energized by the thought of a new presence on the bench. As of now, both Florida coach Billy Donovan and UConn coach Kevin Ollie have been named as frontrunners for Brooks’ vacant position. Ollie has, however, issued a statement previously this week, saying that he is happy at UConn and is not looking to move. Brooks, however, might be considered for the vacant Denver Nuggets or Orlando Magic positions.
Brooks had worked before with Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, who worked under Presti in Oklahoma City.
Still, one has to wonder why the team would let Brooks go after seven seasons when he had been so successful. Brooks, a well-known developer of young talent and a humble, soft-spoken sort, came into Oklahoma City in his first year, and though they ended up with a losing season, the next five years were filled with success, including four trips to the NBA Western Conference Finals, and one trip to the NBA Finals.
Should Presti have pulled the trigger on Brooks? Was it the right move? Time will tell.
[Image courtesy of The Sports Quotient.]