Amid the Thunder’s first-round postseason series with the Lakers, the NBA announced yesterday that the Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks was the recipient of the league’s coach of the year award for the 2009-2010 season.
Despite his team’s trailing 2-0 going back to Oklahoma City for a set of three against the defending champions, Brooks has accomplished a whale of lot during his tenure with the Thunder.
Last season wasn’t great. He took over a struggling team from P.J. Carlesimo without any hopes of winning, but he salvaged the season with some semblance of respectability.
This year? Well, it’s been a different story. Brooks transformed a freakishly young roster from a makeshift assembly of talent to a well-oiled machine. With one star and a number of role players, he has shown Oklahoma City is ready to make an appearance on the NBA map.
Especially impressive is the fact that Brooks was severely limited in height, with Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic, and Serge Ibaka as his main players up front. Nevertheless, he encouraged the team to play inspired, tenacious defense, which is largely responsible for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since relocating from Seattle.
Most important, though, is that Brooks has convinced these players to truly embrace the core aspects of a team. There’s no selfishness, there’s no ball-hogging, there are no off-the-court issues. This squad is focused on winning basketball games the right way. And getting a team to do that is something you can’t really say about many of the great coaches in NBA history.
To be honest, Brook’s transformation of the Thunder is reminiscent of what John Wooden, potentially the greatest coach of all time in any sport at any level, did with his UCLA teams. There’s the same embracing of basketball and life values, and there’s the same desire on the part of the players to be out there every night, doing their best and having fun.
Sure, the 82 consecutive wins and the 10 straight championships aren’t there for Brooks … yet. But as that team continues to blossom, and after the Thunder add a core piece to the front court, watch out. Oklahoma City could be a very dangerous player in the coming years.
And it’s all thanks to the groundwork Mr. Brooks has laid.