Last summer, Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks signed a 4-year contract extension.
Brooks has played a huge role in the Thunder getting to where they are today. I don’t think many would question that he was a perfect fit to help the young team that the Thunder were a few years ago grow into what they are today.
But that was then and this is now. What kind of pressure is on Brooks this season? Is he on the hot seat?
Last year was the first one that the Thunder did not go further in the postseason than the year previous. To be fair, that would have meant winning the championship to go further than the year before, and of course OKC was without Russell Westbrook.
Brooks’ offensive system was revealed and under the microscope more than ever in the playoffs last year after Westbrook’s injury, and Durant was forced to try and do everything himself. The old problems that we thought the Thunder had on offense resurfaced once again.
This season has already presented Brooks with a bigger challenge than usual as Westbrook will miss the first 4-6 weeks. Kevin Martin walked and OKC’s bench is as unproven coming into the season as ever before.
Now, Brooks may rise to the occasion and help keep the Thunder at the top of the standings. Maybe the offensive system will improve, youngsters like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb will develop, and all will be fine in Thunder world.
There is another scenario that doesn’t feel all too unlikely that could unfold, which would result in Brooks really being on the hot seat. If the Thunder look like the team they were in the playoffs post-Westbrook injury and struggle to keep their head above .500, the blame will certainly fall on Brooks.
Ben Golliver of SI.com brings up a great point when examining Brooks. He questions what it would be like for Brooks if he were doing the same coaching job with the same team in New York or LA instead of OKC. Wouldn’t Brooks definitely be on the hot seat, receiving much more criticism and possibly even already gotten the boot?
It’s interesting to think about that. But that’s just hypothetical. The reality is that the Thunder are committed to Brooks. I believe the front office’s confidence in him getting the job done has never really wavered.
As for this season, I think the Thunder will surprise a lot of people at the start of the year sans Westbrook. I think they will be closer to the 3-5 spots in the Western Conference standings than 6-8. I think we will see a much better offense with the team and Brooks having much more time to prepare for not having Westbrook than they did in the playoffs. And once Westbrook gets back, the Thunder will easily return to one of the clear-cut contenders in the league.
And it really shouldn’t be until the playoffs anyway that Brooks’ ability as the coach of this team should be questioned.