General manager Sam Presti dismissed reports that 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson or former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy could be the next coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, saying an extension with Scott Brooks is a top priority.
“To me, it's rubbish,” Presti said Sunday when asked about an ESPN report that Jackson and Van Gundy were being considered as options if Brooks couldn't be re-signed.
Brooks led Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals last season, but his current contract runs out at the end of the month. He has overseen a steady development since taking over the Thunder early in the 2008-09 season.
After winning 23 games that first season, Brooks took Oklahoma City to the playoffs in 2010, then to the Western Conference finals in 2011 before this season's five-game loss to the Miami Heat in the finals.
Jackson is retired but has left the door open to returning in the right circumstances. Van Gundy is now a commentator for ESPN and ABC.
“Scotty is an integral part of our organization and critical to our success,” Presti said. “We value him greatly and we're looking forward to having those (contract) conversations, as he said, in the coming days.
“He's been integral to our success. We wouldn't be the situation that we're in without him and his commitment to our organization and our players.”
While Presti put Brooks' contract negotiations at the top of his list, it's an expansive list of issues to tackle after coming within three wins of a championship.
Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, NBA blocks leader Serge Ibaka and backup point guard Eric Maynor are eligible for contract extensions this July, although all are already signed for next season. Veteran contributors Derek Fisher and Nazr Mohammed are set to become unrestricted free agents, along with reserve Royal Ivey.
That's a lot of pieces to try and fit into a financial puzzle that already includes the high-dollar, long-term contracts of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“We've got to be able to build a team that can win year in and year out, and those are the challenges that have to be balanced,” Presti said. “We love the group we have and we're going to work tirelessly to see if we can make it work here but we understand that there are some inherent challenges and that's part of the new (collective bargaining) system.”
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