ORLANDO — Scott Brooks is not a yeller.
He doesn’t subscribe to screaming at his players or cursing them for every miscue.
At times, it may look like Brooks is too easygoing, too laid back, too player-friendly.
But the Thunder’s biggest star, Kevin Durant, says that’s not the case.
“He coaches me up every single day,” Durant said. “He doesn’t let me slip up on anything no matter what. I’m the first guy he yells at and I really like that. That’s something that I grew up on. My mom was always strict on me, my dad, my coaches. So I didn’t want it to be any different coming from one of the best coaches in the NBA in Scotty Brooks. I don’t want him to baby me and that’s one thing he’s not doing.”
You’ve got to hear the story behind how Brooks became that way, how he learned to treat an All-Star the same as he does the 15th man.
During his media session on Friday at All-Star Weekend, Brooks began talking about his first NBA coach, Jim Lynam. He shared a story about his former Sixers coach to Dei Lynam, Jim’s daughter who is now an anchor and sideline reporter for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia.
“He gave me an opportunity,” Brooks started. “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in if it wasn’t for your dad. He saw something that nobody dared to see, or put their job on the line to see it. But I saw how he treated Charles Barkley. And Charles was one of the toughest players to coach because he is so talented and so hard-headed and stubborn and ornery. But Jimmy challenged him. He challenged him to a fight! He threw his wallet on the floor. (He said) ‘Whoever wins gets the wallet. Put your wallet down, Charles. You’re not as tough as you think.’
“That always reminded me, ‘Wow, that’s how you’re supposed to coach an NBA player. You’re not supposed to coach him like he’s Charles Barkley the All-Star. You’re supposed to coach him like Charles Barkley, he’s a member of the 12-man team. I treat Kevin the same way as I treat a guy that doesn’t play. Kevin has to be a better defender, and I challenge him on that every day. He has to rebound, and he’s done a better job with that. He’s a tremendous scorer and I try not to get in the way in that area. I try to help him become better at that.”
Brooks is entering into a different phase of coaching, perhaps a tougher phase. Initially, he was charged with developing the bevy of young talent on the Thunder’s roster. Ask anyone in the business and they’ll tell you that can be a coach’s toughest assignment, taking players and making them better. And with 10 players on the roster 25 or younger, that task still isn’t complete. But now, Brooks must win. He’s got to get the best he can out of a flourishing cast that suddenly contains two perennial All-Stars in Durant and Russell Westbrook, as well as a burgeoning third All-Star candidate in James Harden.
Winning with a stacked roster seems easy. But it’s one of the hardest things in sports. And it’s largely because the coach has to manage egos while also motivating great talents to get the most out of their skills for the greater good of the team.
Brooks is quietly, yet quickly, proving to be quite good at it.
“I’m fair with all of our guys, but I think I’m demanding,” Brooks said. “If they go below a level, I think I address it. Sometimes you have to address it forcefully. Sometimes you address it kindly. But the bottom line is you have to empower your players to play hard and play together and find ways to motivate them to play for the team. I’m fortunate enough that we have a group of guys that believe in that.”