In a move surprising to some but not to others, the Oklahoma City Thunder fired Scott Books after seven seasons Wednesday. The Thunder, who had advanced to at least the Western Conference Finals in three of the last four years, missed the playoffs this season – by one game – after several key players were injured or traded.
Yes, some coaching changes are black and white. This one, however, was not.
“It was surprising in the sense of the timing,” Oklahoma City KFOR-TV sports director Bob Barry Jr. said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “But Sam Presti had a regularly scheduled news conference for Friday, and because of all the reports that were coming out of New York and other places in the last week from some credible sources – talking about Kevin Ollie at Connecticut and Billy Donovan at Florida and even Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State – we thought something was going to happen. There was just too much smoke. And of course the Thunder camp was kind of quiet. So I was surprised when we found that Sam Presti flew to Los Angeles and told Scott Brooks face-to-face that he was out of here after seven seasons – seven successful seasons I might add.”
Presti made nothing but positive statements about Brooks, 49, and the job he did in Oklahoma City.
“Just raved about him,” Barry said. “I’ve covered a lot of coaching changes, as you have. Nobody is saying anything about Scott Brooks failing, but I think the Thunder clearly sent a message to the NBA world today. They feel like they have to make a chance to get over the top. The only thing that I think is unusual about the decision is that Sam Presti insisted that this season – this injury-riddled, disjointed season – had nothing to do with their decision. If that’s the case, then why didn’t you dismiss Scott Brooks a year ago? I mean, they didn’t make the playoffs this year – first time in six seasons. Kevin Durant, Russell Wilson and Serge Ibaka missed 88 combined games and they missed over 200 games as a team. We thought that would be a part of the decision and Presti said no. But then he just said we felt like two years ago, things were different; this time, things needed to be changed to stimulate the franchise. But coaching changes in the pros, that’s a hobby for most teams. I think the fact that Scott Brooks got seven years is probably a really, really long run in this day and age.”
Still, that’s a tough pill for Amy Lawrence to swallow. Brooks did a great job in Oklahoma City. Do the Thunder really think they can find an upgrade that easily?
“You can’t get rid of the roster,” Barry said, “although they changed out half of it at the trade deadline. So you make a change with the coach and hope somebody pushes you over the top and gets that NBA championship while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are still in their prime. That’s the only thing that makes sense and that’s got to be the only message they sent. I’m sure the Thunder is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and hire a new coach and win that title in Kevin Durant’s final season under his current contract.”