I thought I would wait until the end of the season to do it. I figured it would be best to wait and survey the completed product and then make an informed judgment. But the heck with it — I officially endorse Scott Brooks as the next coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Drop the interim tag. I want Brooks. I know the rumor is that he’ll be named the head man anyway, but quit waiting. I’m ready for it.
I know that the team could potentially hit a skid and lose a number of games. And in that case, if OKC loses its last 10 of 11 or something and the season finishes on a sour note, it may seem like I jumped the gun. And if that happens, I may be sneaking back on here late at night to delete this post and then take a stand saying I never said that. But the fact is, I really like Coach Brooks and I really think the guy can coach. He’s clearly made the team better and most importantly, he’s somehow created an excited atmosphere for the team where the chemistry is off the charts. I don’t know how you inspire a nine-win team like this, but he’s done it. But why Brooks? Why not Avery Johnson or Sam Mitchell or Eddie Jordan? Here’s 10 reasons why:
1. The team is playing better under him. Duh. Since Brooks took over, the Thunder’s 8-22, a pretty big step up from 1-12 (P.J. Carlesimo’s record). And one thing you have to keep in mind is that Brooks had to undo what P.J. did. He had to basically start over and work on regaining the team. He started out losing his first 11 out of 12, but since then, he’s 7-10. There’s no question the team’s moving in the right direction. A strong core is there and Brooks is getting them to buy into a system. The group is playing tougher defense, out-rebounding everybody and busting their butts every night. Collectively, these guys are fired up and intense every single night and I think the man to credit for that is Scott Brooks.
2. He’s fresh. He isn’t some recycled coach on his fourth go-around (See: previous Thunder coaching history). He was hungry for a head coaching spot and since he’s got one (kind of) he’s working as hard as he can. In the NFL, they just shuffle guys around with a coordinator getting a job here and there, but guys like Norv Turner getting 25 chances to be a head coach. And most times, it doesn’t really work out. The NBA has a bit of the same problem. What OKC needs is continuity and excitement. Scott Brooks gives you both.
3. He looks like Eric Murphy in a really-doesn’t-look-like-him-but-definitely-reminds-me-of-him-for-some-reason sort of way. I think I’ve said something about that before, but I just can’t get over it. Every time he shows up on camera, I immediately think, “Man, he looks just like E. I wonder if he’s married to a Perfect 10 model?” And why is this a reason to keep Scott Brooks? Well, I like Entourage and I like E. Plus, it’s harder than you think to come up with 10.
4. He’s got some uncanny, “I like that guy” persona.He just seems like he’s trying his darndest and you can’t really fault him for anything. That little nervous tick he does in a tight game where he’s got his arms crossed and he kind of shrugs his shoudlers and sticks out his head? Yeah, that thing. There’s just something about Coach Brooks that makes it seem like all he wants is to win. You can tell he’s insanely competitive, but at the same time, extremely collected. He’s doing everything in his power to not rip off his coat and run screaming onto the floor. His press conferences are enjoyable and he’s actually funny in them. He’s not all up-tight and overly serious. He realizes this is a game that grown men play, and everybody’s here to have fun (and make millions upon millions of dollars). And I guess when your previous coach is P.J. Carlesimo, the next guy by default is more likable. It’s like the difference in Hayden Christensen between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. After Clones, anything he could have done for a follow-up couldn’t have been that bad. There was no where to go but up.
5. He’s BY FAR the winningest coach in Thunder history. A little simple math tells me the exact figure is 8 > 1.
6. For some reason, I really love the idea of building a contender with a first time head coach. It’s like we’re all in this thing together and we don’t need some outside guy to come in and try and bail us out. Unless that outside guy is Blake Griffin or Carlos Boozer. Then I’m fine with that.
7. He’s calm, cool and collected.Scott Brooks has 30 games under his belt. And he hasn’t gotten a technical yet. I don’t think he’s really even been close. He ‘s probably saving it for a big moment when he feels like he needs to inspire his team. Or not: “I think there are times it can help the team,” Brooks said. ”But if that’s what’s going to get you fired up, I think your team is in the wrong place. I felt that as a player and I feel it as a coach. You need to be focused every time. That’s what we’re trying to build, winning habits here. And if it takes a coach to get a ‘T’ to get you focused, I think you’re not preparing the way you should prepare. Technicals are overrated.” Regardless, when it happens he’ll either flip out like Earl Weaver on speed or be subtle and pull a Gene Hackman in Hoosiers and just ask to be thrown out of the game. Either way, it’s going to be awesome.
8. He’s the absolute perfect coach for a rookie point guard project.Just take a peek (and by peek, I mean read thoroughly) Russell Westbrook’s progress since Coach Scotty took over: 1) Inserted into the starting lineup. 2) Set a career high of 30, then topped it with 31. 3) Is averaging 15.6 points per game (up from 12.0). 4) Was named Rookie of the Month for December. 5) Has gone from being an, “I don’t know about this guy…” to in the top three in most Rookie of the Year watches. 6) Is averaging 5.7 assists per game (up from 3.1) and 7) Has given new hope to everyone because now we’re thinking about 20 year old Russell Westbrook, 20 year old Kevin Durant and 22 year old Jeff Green together for many years.
9. His awesome side-part spike.Mike Gundy may have the strangle-hold on cool spiked side-parts, but Scotty is giving him a run. The most famous side part spikes in my lifetime: A) Brad Taylor B) Scott Linehan C) Gundy D) Scott Brooks. I can’t think of any more. So he’s in pretty good company there, right? Definitely a good reason to hire him. (Nine down, one more to go… think Royce, think.)
10. Has improved the Thunder in not only the win-loss column, but everywhere.Look at Kevin Durant’s stats since Brooks took over – 25.4 ppg (up 4.3) and 7.3 rpg (up 3.3). Look at Jeff Green’s – 17.5 ppg (up 3.8) and 6.5 rpg (up half a rebound). Look at the improved defense. The improved offense. The improved rebounding. Under Carlesimo, the team was stalling and not going anywhere. It was just a group going through the motions and players were either regressing or staying the same. Nobody was getting better. Under Brooks, everything’s improving. And why take the chance in missing again when clearly the players are responding to Brooks? Make it official. Take the interim tag off. Make Eric Murphy head coach for real.