LOS ANGELES – The Thunder has lifted the interim tag from coach Scott Brooks, naming him the full-time head coach on Wednesday afternoon.
The exact terms of the contract are unclear, but the deal is a multi-year agreement.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti had previously maintained he would make a decision at the end of the season. But Presti pulled the trigger on the announcement prior to Wednesday night’s season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers to provide clarity to players, who will meet one final time for exit interviews in Oklahoma City on Thursday before scattering for the off-season.
“We are excited to have a head coach in Scott Brooks who believes in our philosophies and consistently leads with those values,” Presti said. “He has a passion to help our players develop, continue to foster accountability and sefless play and has the ability to communicate with every player on our roster.”
Brooks has received overwhelming support from his players and high praise from his peers for the job he has done since taking over for fired coach P.J. Carlesimo on Nov. 22, only 13 games into the season.
The Thunder enters Wednesday’s finale 21-47 under Brooks, but the team has become more competitive compared to the 1-12 start it sputtered to under Carlesimo.
Brooks’ tenure also got off to a 1-12 start, but the Thunder went 15-17 during a stretch from Dec. 19 through March 10, including a 10-9 mark from New Year’s Eve through Feb. 8. The Thunder’s average margin of defeat since Brooks took over is 5.6 points, 6.7 points fewer than the 12.3-point average margin of defeat the Thunder saw in 13 games under Carlesimo.
Oklahoma City, however, has limped to the finish line with a 4-13 record over the past 17 games going into the finale.
“If you look at what he’s done from the beginning of the season until now, he’s changed the culture of the way we play and the way we practice,” said Desmond Mason. “We’ve had a little roller-coaster ride, but he’s done an excellent job of getting us to understand what it really takes to win. The thing is for us to do it consistently…It’s just a building process and it takes time to jell and get that cohesiveness.”
The promotion marks Brooks’ first full-time head coaching job. He spent last season as an assistant under Carlesimo in Seattle and was an assistant with the Sacramento Kings in 2006-07. He began his coaching career with Denver as an assistant under former Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik and current coach George Karl from 2003-06.
“Coaching’s like anything else, you get better at it over time,” said Nick Collison. “So I think he’ll do nothing but get better with experience. But I think he’s done a really good job.
“He’s got a more difficult job than a lot of coaches of veteran teams because he’s got to try to develop guys but at the same time try to win games. I think that’s also something he’s done a good job of.”
Players have also credited Brooks for his upbeat demeanor, something many felt was vital as the Thunder adapted to relocating from Seattle, labored through a 4-30 start and adjusted to a coaching change less than a month into the season.
“I think he handled the whole situation pretty well, just trying to keep the locker room and everything that we’ve been through positive because it was rough,” said rookie guard Kyle Weaver. “A lot of things happened these past few months. But he did a good job of trying to do what he could to bring us together and get us playing better. So I think he’s definitely done some positive things here to try to get us on track.”