Coach Scott Brooks Is the Right Man to Lead Thunder to Their First Championship
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For the next five years, there is not a better job in all of pro basketball than head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. And for Oklahoma City, there is no better man for the job than head coach Scott Brooks.
Miami may exceed OKC in star power now, but the Thunder are a team with youth on its side and tremendous star power of their own.The Thunder have superb team chemistry—perhaps the most undervalued trait in all of basketball.
The last four seasons have brought tangible success for the Thunder. The team has made strides in every season with Brooks at the helm, including this season, when they won a stellar 71 percent of their games and were just three victories from an NBA title.
Scott Brooks was a journeyman in his 12-year NBA career, playing for Philadelphia, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, New York and Cleveland. His career highlight was serving as backup point guard on the 1994 Houston Rockets team that won the NBA title.
He gradually worked his way up the coaching ranks, initially cutting his teeth as an ABA assistant and then head coach with the Southern California Surf. Brooks had stops as an assistant in Denver and Sacramento before landing with the Seattle Supersonics, who went on to become the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.
He took the reins in OKC only 13 games into the club's inaugural season, following the firing of PJ Carlesimo. Ever since Brooks' arrival, things have been looking up for the Thunder. He's been fortunate to have talented players like Durant and Westbrook, but part of the genius of a successful NBA coach is how he employs his emotional intelligence to relate to his young players.
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General Manager Sam Presti never wanted to let Scott Brooks walk. Shortly after the Thunder's loss to Miami, he completed contract negotiations with his young coach, signing him to a four-year deal..
Rumors of coaching legend Phil Jackson and former NBA coaches Jeff and Stan Van Gundy emerged as possible replacements. Presti quickly quelled the gossip from the outset and in the end, got his man back.
Brooks' mild mannered, magnanimous personality fits this group of young stars perfectly. Durant and Westbrook are both city kids (Durant from just outside of Washington, DC and Westbrook from Los Angeles), who like the feel of laid-back country life in Oklahoma City.
Each player signed on to stay longer in OKC largely because they weren't as concerned about the limelight of New York or Los Angeles and because they loved playing for Scott Brooks. James Harden will likely follow their lead.
The NBA's top sixth man is under contract for one more season, but has expressed interest in sticking around to accomplish the young Thunder trio's dream of winning a title together. This group is as promising of a young nucleus of players as the league has seen in two decades.
Superstar players are hard to come by. Finding superstar players that are engaged and willing to buy in to a coach's philosophy and directives is even more difficult. For an example, Oklahoma City needs to look no further than the club that it ousted in the Western Conference Finals.
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The San Antonio Spurs formed a dynasty around a young nucleus of stars: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. San Antonio surrounded those three with solid role players, filling in the pieces with defensive specialists like Bruce Bowen and sharpshooters Brent Barry and Stephen Jackson.
San Antonio has also had one of the finest coaches in NBA history at the helm, in Gregg Popovich. "Pops" formed a close bond early on with Tim Duncan's superstar predecessor, David Robinson, and then with the brainy, highly-skilled Duncan.
Popovich's ability to foster relationships paid enormous dividends, as the Spurs went on to win four NBA titles in nine seasons. Likewise, Scott Brooks has established and cultivated a rapport with his superstars Durant and Westbrook, as well as James Harden and Serge Ibaka. In the process, he has commanded the respect of all the players on the roster.
Brooks can look to Popovich, the coach he defeated en route to the NBA Finals, as a role model. Following his example will only help Brooks to further design the blueprint for prolonged success in the heartland.
Oklahoma City management made the decision to look to their young coach as the man to lead them back to the NBA Finals—this time, to take the crown. Wise choice.
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