Before the Suns played the Thunder in the Ford Center two weeks ago, Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, a candidate for Coach of the Year, was informed an Oklahoman poll revealed Scott Brooks was a slam dunk to win the Red Auerbach trophy.
Knowing many recent Coaches of the Year have been fired or resigned within a couple of years of winning the award, Gentry quipped: "I’m pulling for Scotty.”
Brooks ran away with the 2010 Coach of the Year award after the Thunder became just one of 10 teams in league history to win 25 or more games the following season.
But can Brooks and the Thunder buck a recent trend in which many organizations failed to sustain the same level of success that helped their coach win the award?
Of the past 14 winners, nine were fired, resigned or retired within two years. Another made it only three more seasons. Two others were fired early in their fourth season after winning the award.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti constantly uses the word "process” to describe how the organization can reach its ultimate goal — long-term success. Because the Thunder has the youngest nine-man rotation in the league, many forecast continued success. Presti, though, reiterated Wednesday nothing is given.
"We have a long way to go to say we got to the pinnacle of anything,” Presti said. "Our organization realizes we have a lot of work to do. We’re not entitled to anything... We have to be consistent with our principles. We can’t look too far ahead. That’s one area where Scott has done a fabulous job.”
Brooks’ approach has been to improve today and not be concerned with yesterday, learn from the past and not look too far into the future.
"I’ve always had the mentality to do your job the best you can do it,” Brooks said. "That’s all you have to worry about every day... Our job is to bring it every day and let everything else fall into place.”
One explanation for the Coach of the Year "jinx” is once a coach wins the Red Auerbach trophy, expectations rise.
When a franchise fails to sustain that success, the coach often is the scapegoat.
The Spurs and Jazz are two small-market teams that have been exceptions.
"Everybody looks at those organizations and admires their stability, their consistency.