Thunder fire coach Scott Brooks after 7 years
Oklahoma City — Scott Brooks did everything but win a championship.
It wasn't enough.
The Oklahoma City Thunder fired their coach on Wednesday, parting ways with a former NBA coach of the year who led the team to three conference finals in four years, only to falter this season as his players were hit hard by injuries.
Brooks coached the Thunder for seven seasons. Starting in 2010-11, he led the team to the Western Conference finals three out of four years, and the franchise reached the NBA Finals in 2012. Oklahoma City failed to make the playoffs this past season, as injuries limited them to a 45-37 finish.
Brooks was 338-207 (.620) with the Thunder and was the 2009-10 NBA Coach of the Year. He said last week that he expected to be the coach next season.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he knows he's taking a chance by removing such a successful coach — a year before Kevin Durant can become a free agent — but he felt the franchise could regress if a change wasn't made.
"The risk is not necessarily in moving forward, but I think sometimes, the risk can be in being fearful of moving forward," he said.
Durant, last season's NBA MVP, responded to the news with an Instagram post Wednesday evening.
"Today was tough for me," he said. "While I support our team's decision 100 percent and look forward to the upcoming season and the future in OKC, Scotty was my coach and a friend for the past 7 seasons. We accomplished a lot together, and those times will never be taken away from us.
"I grew as both a man and a ball player under his guidance and for that I will forever be grateful. I wish nothing but the best for him and his family who have also been such a big part of this city and organization. I know he will be very successful in wherever his next steps are in life."
Brooks was criticized by many for failing to win a title with Durant and Russell Westbrook on his roster. Durant was last year's MVP and is a four-time scoring champion, while Westbrook was this year's All-Star MVP and scoring champion.
The Thunder stumbled to a 3-12 start this season as injuries to Durant and Westbrook took their toll. Presti backed Brooks throughout the season, and said the final decision was not solely based on this past season's performance.
"His contributions to this organization stand on their own," Presti said. "We certainly wouldn't be in the position we are right now where we feel like we're able to make this transition with some momentum, without the work of him and the other assistant coaches that have been a part of this program during his tenure."
Still, as the season progressed, Brooks became annoyed with speculation and doubters.
"I understand a lot of people out there are criticizing," Brooks said right before the All-Star break. "It's not something I worry about. My mother gave me a lot of great lessons, and one of the biggest lessons — don't listen to 'they.' 'They' never should impact how you think, how you prepare, and what are the things that you want to accomplish."
Durant played just 27 games this season after breaking a bone in his right foot. Serge Ibaka, the team's defensive anchor, missed the final month of the season after right knee surgery.
"He did a great job," Westbrook said of Brooks last week. "I don't think he gets enough credit for some of the stuff he does behind the scenes. Obviously, a lot of people that's not in this building maybe want him to do different things, and want to see other things from him, but as a coach and as a friend, I think he does an amazing job of communicating what he wants out of his players."
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