DENVER — The mother of Thunder coach Scott Brooks died Saturday, but that didn't prevent her youngest son from coaching the team with the best NBA record one day later.
Lee Brooks, the most influential person in Brooks' life, died at age 79. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.
Brooks flew to Manteca, Calif., on Saturday and returned Sunday in time for OKC's game against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
More heartache ensued as the Thunder lost 121-118 in overtime, ending a six-game winning streak.
Brooks did his pregame interview session as usual, but no questions were asked about his mother. Instead, Brooks accepted hugs and condolences from Thunder supporters and acquaintances in Denver, where Brooks previously served as an assistant.
The only question about his mother's death was the final postgame inquiry, which asked Brooks how he was doing emotionally.
“I'm good. I'm good. I'm thankful and … I'm good. Thank you, everybody,” Brooks said softly before walking away slowly.
Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins said the team was impressed Brooks chose to coach Sunday.
“I don't see how he did it,” Perkins said. “To be back today just shows you what kind of soldier and how much he's dedicated to us. We just really wanted to get this win for him tonight. We're here for him and we just want to embrace him.”
Reserve forward Nick Collison said it had to be “very difficult” for Brooks to return to the team so quickly.
“It's tough for anybody to go through something like that,” Collison said. “I'm sure it's tough to come here and try to focus on the game. It's rough. It's part of life, but it doesn't make it any easier.”
The Thunder released a statement on Sunday afternoon.
“I appreciate the thoughts and prayers that are with my family,” Brooks said in that statement. “I know my mom would want me to coach tonight's game and I do so to honor her memory and all that she meant to me as a mother and as an invaluable role model.”
Thunder general manager Sam Presti said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Scott and his family as they mourn the loss of his mother, Lee. Over the years we have come to learn of the tremendous woman that she was; her love and dedication to family, her work ethic, her perseverance and the impact that she had on Scott. Clearly she was an incredible individual who we all came to admire in getting a small glimpse of her life. The entire Thunder organization supports Scott during this very difficult time.”
Scott is the youngest of seven children, whose father left the family when he was age 2. Lee still ran the family business, a car wash aptly named “Dribbles.”
Brooks likely will remain with the team for the final four stops on its current six-game road trip.
Coincidentally, Friday's game is at Sacramento, located roughly 60 miles north of Lee's home.