Scott Brooks has been named the Oklahoma City Thunder’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.
General manager Sam Presti fired coach P.J. Carlesimo following Friday night’s 105-80 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Presti gave Brooks his first head coaching job rather than hiring an unemployed veteran NBA coach like Avery Johnson, Flip Saunders or Jeff Van Gundy.
“Scott is someone I feel will bring great preparedness and energy, abilities and experience to our basketball team,” Presti said during a Saturday afternoon teleconference. “I’m excited to see him work with our players. I think he will be great for our team and our community.”
The Thunder has a league-worst 1-12 record and is riding a 10-game losing streak heading into Saturday night’s game at New Orleans. The average margin of defeat during the streak has been 14 points and Oklahoma City fell behind by at least 30 points at some point in five of those games.
A 25-point loss Friday at home to the Hornets apparently was the last straw. Presti said he informed Carlesimo of the change after Friday's game.
“Obviously, change is not easy," Presti said. "As we go through this it will be important that our team, our staff and everyone involved pulls together as we try to get things pushed in the right direction. I’m confident that we will.
“We felt we needed to take a different direction. We were not seeing the progress or improvement we felt was necessary for our team at this stage. We decided making a change was necessary at this point.”
Talk of defensive improvement evaporated during the losing streak. The Thunder has allowed 100 points or more the past seven games. The team entered Saturday's games rank 25th in the NBA in points allowed (101.2), 29th in scoring (88.9), and last in field-goal percentage (40.4) and turnovers (17 per game).
Carlesimo began the season by apologizing for the Thunder's poor effort in a season-opening home loss to Milwaukee, and found himself answering questions on the same topic this week following three straight home losses.
“That’s something we’ve been looking at,” Presti said. “When there is some question in that regard that’s certainly a concern. There’s accountability with everybody. That’s something we feel is not negotiable. We have to play hard and put in ourselves in positions to compete and win basketball games.
“There were a number of factors making a decision like this. They’re not easy decisions. There’s no good feeling about making them. But we have a job to do, we made a decision and we’ll move forward.”
Presti said the primary reason he made the decision Friday night was the team has Sunday and Monday off, two days to allow Brooks to connect with the team following the return trip from New Orleans.
Brooks, 43, is viewed as one of the league’s top assistant coaches. He was the runner-up for the Sacramento Kings vacancy two years ago when the Kings chose Reggie Theus.
“I was that close,” Brooks was quoted in July 2007. “Close enough to know that I was qualified to get it.