SALT LAKE CITY – Thunder coach Scott Brooks recently was mapping out where he would take his family during NBA All-Star Weekend later this month.
Just past the stroke of midnight Friday, the city of Orlando, Fla., officially became the Brooks family destination.
With his team's 101-87 victory at Utah, Brooks formally earned the right to coach the Western Conference at the All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb. 26.
The coach with the highest winning percentage through Feb. 15 gets to coach his own conference. The Thunder is now 21-6 (.777) and could finish no worse than 21-8 (.724) by the league's cut-off date.
Brooks' closest competition, Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, can finish no better than 19-8 (.704). San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich (18-9) coached in last year's All-Star Game and was not eligible.
Friday night's victory over the Jazz was far more meaningful to the 46-year-old Brooks, given how careless the Thunder had played in a 106-101 loss at Sacramento the night before.
In the days leading up to clinching the Western coaching honor, Brooks sheepishly would change the subject whenever it was brought up.
Brooks obviously mentioned it to no one because on the court after the Utah victory, director of team operations Marc St. Yves was the only person to congratulate Brooks on his achievement.
ESPN did its postgame interview with Russell Westbrook, who had 28 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists.
In the locker room afterward, Westbrook said he had no idea, but quickly admitted he couldn't be happier for his coach.
"We've got a lot of talent on this team, but at the same time, we've got to be coached," Westbrook said. "He's a guy who keeps us steady and keeps our head above water."
The victory closes out OKC's five-game road trip that began last Saturday at San Antonio. The Thunder went 3-2 during the stretch and is now 12-5 away from Chesapeake Energy Arena, which is four more road wins than any team in the Western Conference.
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