MIAMI, Fla. — Scotty Brooks has a contract with the Thunder. For the next eight days.
Then he's a free agent. Then the Everyman who has guided the Thunder from the dredges of the NBA to within sight of the summit is on the open market.
Hard to believe. Hard to imagine the Thunder without Foreman Scotty, even though if we scrape the crust off our memory, we can recall the dark days of November 2008, when P.J. Carlesimo coached the Boomers to a 1-12 record and was fired in the two hours between the end of a game and the takeoff of a team charter.
Brooks has been a staple ever since. Been the head coach longer than every player has been on the Thunder roster with the exception of Kevin Durant, Nick Collison and, by 13 games, Russell Westbrook.
Hard to imagine Thunderville without Brooks, and I don't think we'll have to experience it.
The Thunder wants Brooks. Brooks wants to coach the Thunder. And while contract talks have gained little traction, that will change for two reasons.
1. With the season now past, the contract can become a priority for both sides. The primary priority.
“As we have said consistently, Scott is an integral part of the Thunder, and his contributions have been critical to the success and growth of our players and team,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
“We have great respect for Scott and are confident he is the right person for the Thunder. We are hopeful he will be the coach of the Thunder for years to come.”
2. With that said, the Thunder has most of the leverage.
There are more good coaches out there than good NBA jobs.
Various reports say the Thunder has offered just north or south of $4 million a season, for three years, but that Brooks wants a four-year contract.
You can't blame Brooks for trying to strike. This side of an NBA championship, his stock never will be higher.
Year One, obvious improvement from a staggering team. Year Two, amazing improvement to 50 wins, playing the regal Lakers tough in the playoffs and a coach of the year award. Year Three, 55 wins and the Western Conference Finals. Year Four, NBA favorite after a rally from two games down against San Antonio in the West Finals.
So Brooks has plenty of ammunition, plus this.
The players love him. If you saw the outpouring of emotion after the Thunder beat the Spurs in Game 6, with Westbrook and Co. imploring the crowd to shower Brooks with love, you know the level of connection with Brooks and his players.
Brooks never publicly upbraids his players. Never. He sometimes makes curious substitution decisions — benching Westbrook in Game 3; forgetting that Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha are on the roster — but the players clearly have bonded with Brooks.
So that's a bargaining chip for Brooks. Can't risk losing your coach when you're trying to talk Serge Ibaka and James Harden into long-term commitments, at likely 80 cents on the dollar, in exchange for being part of something special.
But still, Presti and Clay Bennett hold the most chips.
If Brooks wants to walk over a little money or an extra year on his contract, where can he go and be assured of still coaching in that desired fourth year?
What's a better NBA job than the Thunder right now? San Antonio? Gregg Popovich isn't going anywhere. Miami? Sure, except Erik Spoelstra, now on top of the world, was in the frying pan only two weeks ago.
The Thunder offers an elite roster led by the all-American boy, set for title contention for the foreseeable future, and an organization that by all accounts is pristinely run.
“I love our guys,” Brooks said Thursday night after a 121-106 loss to the Heat in American Airlines Arena. “I love what they're about. They're winners.
“I think we've all kind of overlooked, even myself, how incredible these guys are. They're just a great group of guys that give everything they have.”
Anyone want to ditch that rose garden to go work for James Dolan and the Knickerbockers or Donald Sterling and the Clips?
If Brooks wants to walk, we'd have another Land Run, with coaches sprinting to OKC, applying for the job. Some of them would be a major step down from Brooks. Some would be NBA nobility. Jeff Van Gundy's name has been mentioned. Stan Van Gundy, one heck of a coach himself, is available.
So Brooks is at a disadvantage in the negotiations. He has the job he wants. The Thunder has the coach it wants, but it also has the leverage.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.