Scott Brooks arrived at a charity golf tournament Monday morning wearing a Thunder polo shirt.
Yep, he's still the coach in Oklahoma City.
You have to doublecheck these days in the NBA.
By the time the league cranks up again, 13 of the 30 franchises in the league will have new coaches. A whopping half of the teams have changed coaches in the past year, including four that currently have openings.
“It's not good,” Brooks said of the massive turnover.
Not good for the teams. Not good for the league. Not good for the quality of basketball.
But don't expect the epidemic to spread to Oklahoma City any time soon.
The reason: Scott Brooks understands that you have to play nice with others.
Winning, of course, is paramount in the NBA. Any coach wanting to stick around for more than a few years has to produce. But as we have seen this offseason, success doesn't guarantee longevity.
Vinny Del Negro led the Clippers to a first-ever division title but was cut loose before the end of May.
George Karl earned NBA Coach of the Year honors in May but was fired by the Nuggets in June.
Lionel Hollins led the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals but was let go less than two weeks later.
All three of those coaches were successful, but now, all three are unemployed. That's because each had a rift with the person calling the shots in their franchise.
Now, that person's station can vary. Sometimes, it's an owner. Sometimes, it's a general manager. Sometimes, it's a player.
In Oklahoma City, it's Sam Presti. The Thunder general manager controls the operation. Who stays. Who goes. What image is projected. What message is shared. Those are Presti's calls.
One day, that might change, but right now, that day seems far, far away.
And everyone knows it.
Including Scott Brooks.
By all accounts, the coach has a great relationship with the boss. Brooks is in lock step with Presti's vision, message and philosophy. Now, that might be because Brooks believes exactly as Presti does, but it's more likely that he believes largely as Presti does and bites his tongue about the rest of it.
Brooks understands that to stay employed you have to stay on good terms with your boss.
And he's on very good terms with his.
On Monday before the Verplank Foundation Invitational — an event benefiting pro golfer Scott Verplank's scholarship program for youngsters with Type 1 diabetes — Brooks was asked about Thursday night's draft. Who will the Thunder take? What will it do with its picks?
Brooks automatically professed trust in Presti, but he also talked of a good collaborative relationship.
“The good thing about it with Sam and I, we communicate and we understand what works,” he said. “We work well together.”
That's where Del Negro, Karl and Hollins messed up. They didn't work well with the people who they needed to.
In Los Angeles, Del Negro didn't have a problem with the Clippers' front office. His problem was with the star point guard.
And right now, Chris Paul is calling the shots in that franchise. He is a free agent who could go anywhere, and numerous media outlets have reported that he wasn't a big fan of Del Negro's and that he wanted to play for a different coach. Paul could've left if Del Negro stayed.
The Clippers decided having Paul was more important than having Del Negro.
Paul has since disputed that he had any say-so in Del Negro's fate, but do you think Del Negro would be out if Paul wanted him to stay?
Player support wasn't a problem for Karl or Hollins. They got crossways with their front offices.
Karl talked to Denver Post beat writer (and all-around good guy) Benjamin Hochman the week after he was fired. The coach said that after the trade deadline, he felt distance growing between him and the front office. He was on one side, general manager Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke were on the other.
After the season, Ujiri left for Toronto, and when Karl asked the team about extending his contract beyond next season, Kroenke decided he wanted to start fresh.
It was a similar story in Memphis.
Hollins had a long and successful track record with the Grizzlies. But ownership changed a year ago, and with it came a new philosophy built around the number-crunching analytics that have become popular around the league.
Philosophical differences with Hollins ensued, and it was no secret. Hollins, for example, openly questioned CEO Jason Levien's decision earlier this season to trade Rudy Gay to Toronto.
When negotiations began in early June to extend Hollins' contract, he insisted in several radio interviews that he was loyal to the franchise and presumably to the vision of the leadership. He pounded home that point time and again.
Levien wasn't convinced.
Hollins wasn't extended.
Del Negro, Karl and Hollins got results, but they still got canned because they had problems with the person pulling the strings. There are no signs of such strain between Scott Brooks and Sam Presti.
Right now, only Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Erik Spoelstra in Miami and Rick Carlisle in Dallas have longer tenure with their current teams than Brooks has with the Thunder. All of those coaches have won lots of games, but that's not the only reason they still have their jobs.
They've played nice with the right people, too.