PHILADELPHIA — Scott Brooks took a trip down memory lane on Tuesday as his team concluded its practice session at the Sixers training center inside Evans Hall on the campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The Thunder coach talked about his old apartment being around the block. He remembered how his Sixers used to practice just down the road, on City Line Ave., when he was a rookie. And Brooks lit up at the thought of his favorite spot across the street — T.G.I. Friday's.
“That was my kitchen,” Brooks said. “Lunch and dinner. Twice a day I would go to Friday's.”
Brooks broke into the NBA in Philadelphia. The city and the Sixers, he said, always will be special. It's the place and the team that allowed him to fulfill his dream of playing pro ball.
“There are a lot of great memories,” Brooks said.
As much as anyone, Brooks knows what it means for the Sixers to be relevant again. And he has great admiration for the coach who has captained the turnaround.
“This is a great organization, and for what Doug Collins has done, I'm sure he feels some ownership in this because he's building a great young team that's playing hard and has a great foundation,” Brooks said. “He probably has the same feelings that I have (for the city and team) now that he's coaching his former team.”
When the Thunder faces the Sixers on Wednesday night inside Wells Fargo Center, it will be a matchup of two franchises that have withstood 20-win seasons and quickly righted their ships. It'll be a story of teams that benefited from two strong-minded head coaches who hung in despite bleak situations and are now reaping the benefits.
“I have a lot of respect for him because he's done it at all levels and he had a great career playing,” Brooks said of Collins. “Now he's bringing a young team along and playing good basketball.”
Like Brooks, who won the award two years ago, Collins is now at the front of the line for Coach of the Year honors because of the job he's done with the Sixers.
“He's definitely up there,” Brooks said. “There are so many coaches having great years. (Gregg Popovich) is having a great season. Rick Adelman is having a great year. Even George Karl. With all those injuries they've had they're still fighting and battling. But Collins is obviously right in there. Every year, there's five or six guys deserving of it and he's definitely one of them.”
What Collins has done has been nothing short of sensational. He's taken a team that won 27 games the year before his arrival and slowly turned it into a hard-nosed troop, a team that thinks it can play with anyone despite a roster in which the top 10 players in minutes have an average age of just 24.2 years — 1.5 years younger than the Thunder's top 10.