The Blazers had just hired Neil Olshey, the former GM of the Los Angeles Clippers, to the same position. Olshey shares Brooks' agent, Warren LeGarie, and is believed to have a personal relationship with the Thunder coach. Olshey had watched Brooks from afar as he helped build the Thunder into an NBA power and, if the proper opportunity presented itself, was widely believed to be interested in making a run at Brooks had talks with the Thunder continued to lag.
While no talks with the Blazers took place, it would have been a risky career move to say the least for Brooks, whose contract with the Thunder expired on June 30. Though he could have been compensated quite handsomely behind deep-pocketed Blazers owner Paul Allen, Brooks would have had to leave a core that included Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and, at the time, James Harden, for a Blazers team powered by LaMarcus Aldridge and little else. Rookie of the Year front-runner Damian Lillard entered the league to high hopes but had only been a pro for two days.
Brooks maintains that Oklahoma City is where he always wanted to be, but the longer negotiations took, the more rumors began to swirl. Revered but retired coaches like Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan soon became linked to the Thunder. Presti famously dismissed the notion of Jackson possibly coming to OKC by calling the report “rubbish.”
But Brooks was at a crossroads, with those close to him firmly believing that months of brutal haggling over money had burned the bridge between the coach and the team.
His heart was in Oklahoma City. But he appeared headed for Portland.
Until his phone buzzed.
First by a fateful text from his franchise player, and then, finally, by a lucrative offer that rewarded him as one of the top five paid coaches in basketball, joining Gregg Popovich, Rick Adelman, Doc Rivers and Rick Carlisle.
“Kevin is family to me,” Brooks said. “I've been with him from his rookie year and we've been through a lot together … I've said this many times, I am blessed to be able to coach the guys I coach. I love the guys I coach. I love being around them. They drive me bonkers at times, but I love those moments too because I know their heart is always in the right place.”