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The lighter side of Scott Brooks

Success hasn’t gone to coach’s head, and his self-deprecating humor makes him popular among players and media.

By John Rohde Published: December 23, 2012
/articleid/3740133/1/pictures/1913849">Photo - NBA BASKETBALL: Oklahoma CIty coach Scott Brooks talks with an official during a preseason NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
NBA BASKETBALL: Oklahoma CIty coach Scott Brooks talks with an official during a preseason NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Brooks had won a championship ring with the Rockets the previous season and would have won another had he not been traded. As mentioned before, Brooks was not happy with the chain of events.

“It was a hard thing to do because Scotty was so important to me, and I know that doesn’t seem like it’s a true statement,” Tomjanovich explained. “If he couldn’t play, he wanted to go somewhere and play. He ended up out of our (guard) rotation. It was a tough situation because I cared about the guy so much. There was talk about him really wanting to go somewhere and play.”

Brooks’ relationship with Tomjanovich immediately was strained.

“It was really hard to trade him. In fact, I cried,” Tomjanovich said. “He was upset and I was really surprised about that because I thought he wanted it. I never really talked to him about it. I found out later how much it hurt him.”

Tomjanovich attends many Houston home games and will attend Saturday’s game when the Thunder visits. Brooks does not telephone Tomjanovich for coaching advice, but they chat before games when Brooks spots him.

“I just cannot tell you how proud I am of the guy,” Tomjanovich said. “It’s the way he handles himself. I was one of those coaches that no matter what, you always support your players. No matter what, and that’s how he’s been.

“That kind of positive energy he throws out there is so important. You have to make corrections and tell guys when they’re wrong, but there’s a way you do it and Scotty does it the right way.”

When Tomjanovich once complimented Brooks on his game-day demeanor, Brooks replied: “I might look calm, but there are certain parts of me that aren’t very calm at all.”


Brooks’ humor is not a string of one-liners. He is neither Henny Youngman nor Rodney Dangerfield.

Brooks habitually spews those familiar Thunder company lines. Thousands of questions are being asked, but 99.7 percent of the time Brooks reverts to 10 patented responses uttered by every card-carrying member of the tight-lipped franchise.

What’s refreshing is no matter how many times Brooks is asked the same question, he’ll answer politely. On many occasions, prominent national basketball writers have expressed their pleasure in dealing with Brooks, and it’s not because of the Thunder’s rapid rise to NBA prominence.

What separates Brooks from others in the profession is how he treats reporters, no matter what their market size. Big or small, famous or not, Brooks treats people equally. He might take potshots at himself, but Brooks does not take aim at others.

“He takes his coaching very seriously, but I think he’s learned to laugh at things,” Tomjanovich said. “You have to do it or this game will eat you up. It’s so competitive.”

• On Nov. 21 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, a Los Angeles reporter had a question about the superior court presence of Clippers point guard Chris Paul and asked Brooks if he thought in the same manner when he was an NBA point guard.

“It’s hard for me not to smile when you’re mentioning Chris Paul and myself (in the same sentence),” Brooks said with a grin. “Everybody here was thinking that, but nobody was wanting to say it.”

• Two Decembers ago, Brooks was interviewed for a story about the sudden surplus of scoring point guards in the NBA.

“You should do a story on nonscoring point guards,” Brooks told the reporter. “I was the last one, and that was just because I couldn’t score.”

• Thunder veteran Nick Collison, who at 32 is the oldest Thunder player, once was asked if he remembered seeing Brooks playing in the NBA playoffs.

“I remember some towel waving,” Collison deadpanned. “I vaguely remember those series, but I was pretty young. I could be wrong. Maybe he played huge minutes.”

• In April of 2010, when the No. 8-seeded Thunder faced the No. 1-seeded, defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the playoffs, Brooks was trying to convince visiting media the best-of-seven series was going to be closer than people thought.

“We always felt that we were going to be in this series and that the series was going to go long,” Brooks said. “We weren’t thinking that we would sweep them.”

A few reporters laughed immediately, but not enough to please Brooks. “That was a joke,” Brooks said, after which everybody laughed.

Before Brooks’ comedy act could continue, the interview session suddenly was cut short. “But I’m not finished,” Brooks said, feigning frustration.


Brooks’ childhood somewhat mirrors his basketball career — some highs, lots of lows and many struggles. Asked if he uses humor as a defense mechanism, Brooks was quite serious in his answer.

“I’m very lucky to be in my position, and I’ve always felt that,” Brooks said, “Even as a child when I grew up with no father, the youngest of seven children, working hard to get everything and seeing my mother work all the time, I still felt I had an opportunity to make a difference.

“I feel lucky that I’m in this position. Not a lot of guys make it in the NBA as a player and not a lot of guys make it who are under 6-foot and not drafted. I always have everything in perspective. I definitely want to enjoy what I do and I want our players to enjoy what they do, because this is the time of their lives. I had the time of my life as a player and they need to have that same experience.”

Brooks, who averaged 4.9 points and 2.4 assists in 680 career games, admits getting frustrated when he evaluates his playing days in bits and pieces.

“I always wish I could have done more,” Brooks said, “but reality sets in pretty quickly and I realize I did everything I could with what I had.”

A smile crept on Brooks’ face when he learned he was one of only 37 undrafted players since 1965 to have lasted at least 10 seasons in the NBA.

“That’s great,” Brooks said, using that slight hesitation again, “but the sad thing about it is I’m probably the 37th best player on that list.”

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