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OKC Thunder: Scott Brooks stays, at a price

Berry Tramel: New contract puts plenty of pressure on Thunder's coach.
by Berry Tramel Modified: July 3, 2012 at 6:41 pm •  Published: July 4, 2012

Scotty Brooks said he got the message from Sam Presti before this most recent NBA season. “Either NBA Finals or adios.”

Everybody laughed.

Good Tuesday in Thunderville. Your heroes have the coach they want. Foreman Scotty has the job he wants.

But it all comes at a price.

A little bit of Thunder innocence is gone.

Everyman remains the coach; Brooks still looks and acts like the friendly insurance adjuster who lives across the street. Still is the aw-shucks coach who charms his team of baby Boomers and gets them to play fanatically.

But now Brooks is making in the neighborhood of $4.5 million a year.

That's Laker/Maverick money. That's what Mike Brown gets paid to win championships in LA and Rick Carlisle gets paid to do the same in Dallas.

That's more money than the Thunder pays Thabo Sefolosha or Nick Collison, and it asks the former to guard LeBron James and the latter to slow Dirk Nowitzki.

Pay an NBA coach $4.5 million for four years, and inherent pressure arrives. Pay an NBA coach $4.5 million, and suddenly it doesn't seem so charming when he forgets to play Thabo more than nine minutes in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Brooks indicated he knew the new score.

“My job is to get better,” Brooks admitted. “I'm not going to stand up here and say I'm great.”

Brooks is not the finished product as an NBA coach. Neither is his team. But the Thunder is getting there fast, so its coach has to keep up.

Brooks has done a superb job of gently guiding his historically youthful team to greatness. Any horse will tell you sugar trumps the whip.

Presti credited Brooks with installing the Thunder culture. Hard work. Teamwork. Sticking together through tough times, be they a sorry season or a four-minute slump in the pits of a playoff game.

“Although we've had a lot of change in personnel over time, the consistency and habits that have been formed are a credit to Scott,” Presti said. “He's been integral to building those habits.”

All true. But the Thunder is guaranteeing Brooks $18 million over four years not for what he has done, but for what it is hoped he will do. The Thunder is not paying for past performance, it is paying for future performance.

The time to win is now. Who knows what the future will bring? We know what 2012-13 will bring: a roster of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Collison and Thabo.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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