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Scott Brooks and Rudy T. on similar paths

John Rohde Published: December 23, 2012

If anyone can relate to the intense pressure and high expectations Scott Brooks faces as an NBA coach who has yet to turn 50, it’s Rudy Tomjanovich. Tomjanovich became interim coach of the Houston Rockets at age 43, won the world championship in only his second full season as coach (1993-94), then repeated the process the following season. Brooks also was 43 when he became the Thunder’s interim coach in 2008 and he advanced to last year’s NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, losing 4-1. In his three full seasons as Thunder coach, Brooks has won two Northwest Division titles, one Western Conference crown and was named 2009-10 NBA Coach of the Year. A young and talented roster has seen OKC improve every year, but a 21-5 start to this season appears to have come attached with a championship-or-bust tag. While Tomjanovich faced the pressure of defending the crown, Brooks faces the pressure of potentially winning multiple championships the next four or five seasons thanks to contract extensions signed by Kevin Durant (through the 2015-16 season), Russell Westbrook (through 2016-17) and Serge Ibaka (through 2016-17). Brooks played 183 games in 2½ seasons for Tomjanovich, who admitted he sought out the 5-foot-11, 165-pound hard-nosed point guard who got his professional start in the Continental Basketball Association. “He was one of the first guys I coveted when I got the job (in 1991),” Tomjanovich said of Brooks, who went undrafted in 1987 coming out of UC-Irvine. “I wanted workers, tough guys. I had heard about Scotty, about him being one of the toughest kids to come out of the CBA. When I saw him play, I was like. ‘Holy smoke, that’s the guy I want on my team.’ We were lucky to get him for a second-round draft choice (Jerome Allen in 1992). We had another guy like Scotty, Mario Ellie. Both those guys were instrumental in setting the culture of our team because of their work ethic and their mentality. They had that survival thing you need coming out of the minor leagues that you take nothing for granted.” Brooks was traded to the Dallas Mavericks just hours before the league’s 1995 trade deadline and his relationship with Tomjanovich immediately was strained. They now consider each other good friends. Asked if he thought Brooks was doing a good job handling the Thunder’s young talent, Tomjanovich seemed insulted the question was even posed. “Oh, he’s doing a tremendous job with what he’s got. I just tell Scotty how proud I am,” said Tomjanovich, now 64. “They talk about the Thunder being so young and he’s already been there knocking on the door, put some dents in it already. It looks like they’re on their way there (the NBA Finals) again. That is very hard for a young team to do. It took Michael Jordan seven years to win a championship. Hakeem Olajuwon was in his 10th year when we got there. And (OKC’s) whole team is young. “The next two or three years is going to be interesting, when they expect you to win the title, when you’re going out there and you’re playing not to lose instead of to win. Everybody expects that you’ve been there before so you should just win this thing easy. It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you wonder, ‘Does anything I believe in make any damn sense?’ ” - John Rohde  

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