Scott Brooks coaches one of the more emotional teams in the NBA. The Thunder led the league in technical fouls this season, and players such as Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are known as volatile personalities. On the heels of an emotional Game 5 victory over the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals, Brooks on Wednesday talked about coaching such an emotional team:
Q: What have you learned in terms of navigating great mood swings in your team?
Brooks: “We have an emotional group of guys. I understand that from Day 1. You have to have a very even-keeled approach to the game. It’s an emotional game. It’s a very competitive game. You have to be able to remain calm in the moment. At times, we struggle in that area. But for the most part, we do a pretty good job with that. In the playoffs … you have to really approach every game as the most important game. Every game has its own identity and personality. You have to embrace all the ups and downs of that game.”
How do you foster the never-give-up attitude in your team?
Brooks: “There’s a balance to it. No question. Something I spend a lot of time with. We have a very competitive, emotional group, that the competitive spirit is very high. When you have that, there’s going to be some times the emotions are going to get the best of us. I try to keep everybody as calm as possible. For the most part, we’ve done a great job with that. There’s obviously some breakdowns in that area. But I think our guys have done a great job staying focused, staying in the moment of each game and playing the possession out the best we can. It’s not a mistake-free game. I understand and I think most people that follow basketball understand that.”
Do you have to have an emotional off switch?
Brooks: “Yes, you have to as a coach. Sometimes that’s hard. But you have to take yourself out of the situation and keep everybody stabilized. I think our guys have been through a lot of experiences together. There’s no question the last two games have been an emotional rollercoaster, for the good part of the ride and the scary part of the ride. But you all love to be on it. We all live for these moments. We all live to be put into these positions. Our guys thrive in these areas. With that being said, we still have to figure out ways to improve and get better.”
Everyone talks about Westbrook’s emotions, but how about Ibaka’s emotions?
Brooks: “He’s very emotional. He’s very prideful. Those are the things I love about him. Those are things that sometimes drive me crazy. But I like being driven crazy when you care about something and you’re passionate about something like Serge is. Serge is a passionate basketball player. He’s competitive. Wants to win every possession. He gets frustrated when he misses a shot, he gets frustrated when he misses a rotation, he gets frustrated when he misses an opportunity to get a rebound. That’s what makes our team very good. We’ve always built our team being competitive with each other in practice and transforming that over to the basketball court in the games.”