According to a league source, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Oklahoma City Thunder have fired head coach, Scott Brooks. Brooks was informed of the decision this morning in California, with GM Sam Presti delivering the news in person.
The decision was not based on the Thunder’s injury-plagued 45-37 campaign where they failed to reach the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2009, their inaugural season in Oklahoma City (RIP Sonics). Instead, according to the same league sources, Presti’s decision was a long-term view for the franchise.
With the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets both looking to fill head coaching positions, Brooks immediately becomes the frontrunner for both spots.
Here’s the statement the Thunder released about the termination:
“This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels. Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member,” said Sam Presti, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager. “As we all know, this past year we had unique and challenging circumstances and as I have conveyed, not many people could have accomplished what Scott and this team were able to. Therefore, it is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain. We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and put ourselves in the best position next season and as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program. We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to construct an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City.”
“We have a deep appreciation for all that Scott has contributed to the Thunder organization over the last seven years,” said Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder Chairman. “He helped us build the foundation of this team and led us to much success. While a very hard decision, I support the need to transition to a new coach that will allow us to continue the growth and progress that will help us reach all of our goals. We wish Scott and his family only the best as he moves forward.”
A report last week intimated the Thunder would be re-evaluating Brooks’ place within the organization and he could see the pink slip this summer. At the time, Florida’s Billy Donovan was the leading candidate to replace Brooks, and a source tells Marc Stein of ESPN.com Donovan has been doing background research on KD in recent days:
Also, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv reported in recent days the Thunder brass were “seriously considering” Connecticut coach and former NBA player, Kevin Ollie, to replace Brooks.
After that story broke, Ollie said in a statement he has no plans to leave UCONN after signing a five-year, $15 million deal last spring. As part of that deal, Ollie would have to pay Connecticut a buyout fee of $5 million if he were to make the jump to the NBA, further shrouding any future in OKC.
It’s worth noting, there’s no way the Thunder make a move like this without clearing it with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, their franchise cornerstones. Which makes their public support for Brooks earlier this month — along with that of Serge IBaka — all the more discordant with what happened this morning.
Here’s what Serge said about Brooks to HoopsHype last week:
“Why are you going to fire him? What has he done? Injuries were not his fault. Why would he go? He has not done anything. He’s not responsible for the injuries. He did his best with the team he had. Would [another] coach do better with a team with so many injuries? What could he possibly do about it? The team is with him. You can’t blame him for what has happened.”
We’ll have more about the ramifications of the news, and why it clouds Kevin Durant’s future in Oklahoma City. Durant will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and working with a rookie head coach in what could be his final year with the Thunder, further muddies the water on his long-term future with OKC.