When the Oklahoma City Thunder finally bowed out of the playoff race, it was only going to be a matter of time before the pitch forks and sticks of fire were making their way to the door of Head Coach Scott Brooks. Even as early as mid year when the Thunder were suffering through a post All Star slump (and teething period as they worked Russell Westbrook back into the rotation) many were calling for the head of Brooks. Now that the season is over and the Thunder haven’t got their championship yet, the chorus is signing again.
General Manager Sam Presti made it very clear that Brooks is staying and that the Thunder are happy with the job he is doing. Their superstar and MVP Kevin Durant has an affinity for his coach and OKC would be foolish to upset the applecart when Durant is set to become a free agent in a couple of years time.
So are the Thunder stuck in mediocrity due to their relationship with the head coach or can the Thunder win in spite of him?
Scott Brooks is a young head coach who is still learning the game. Just as his very young and talented team, he makes mistakes, gets caught out in tough situations and defers to his stars when he can’t fathom the right move. It’s not exactly what you want from your head coach, but coaches make mistakes and they learn as well. Brooks this year tried playing Jeremy Lamb (prior to Caron Butler coming on board), he played rookie center Steven Adams and he made lineup changes when matchups didn’t suit his side.
You couldn’t have said that just a year or so ago.
The players want to play for Brooks, but they don’t know any different. They might be able to achieve even more if they had a more astute sideline specialist. So what do the Thunder do? They should go out and target an assistant to come in and give Scott Brooks and his superstar young team some guidance.
A number of names are being floated around the league right now for some vacant head coaching roles. We have already seen Steve Kerr and the Thunder’s Derek Fisher accept head coaching roles (their first time as coaches in any capacity) but there are plenty of other candidates that might not find the main job with any franchise. What would look better on a coaching resume than being an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially if you can impact the team and make a difference? The Thunder should be watching the coaching carousel with interest, not to replace their current coach, but to add some depth and maturity on the sidelines – the same way they are trying to do so on the floor.
Speaking with a number of switched on Thunder fans, there are some potential names that jump out and who would really add a great deal to the OKC franchise.
The Oklahoma City Thunder know Maurice Cheeks and he knows them. He left the assistant role with the Thunder to pursue a head coaching role with the Detroit Pistons but lasted just half a season before being replaced in the Motor City. Cheeks was held accountable for the misfiring Pistons but it was more about personnel than play calling. Cheeks is a very astute coach who had the respect of the players when in OKC the last time. As a former NBA player and point guard he had a close relationship with Russell Westbrook and was instrumental in his development. A perfect fit if he chooses to continue his coaching career and would bolster Brooks’ sideline department.
Eddie Jordan was first appointed as an NBA head coach way back in 1996. He lead the Sacramento Kings for a short tenure and also popped up on the sidelines again, this time at Detroit in 2009. He is a very offensive minded coach who would really add another string to the bow of the Thunder. Implementing a Princeton style offense that relies on ball and player movement, this motion based system might just utilize the strengths of the Thunder roster. He has spent last season coaching Rutgers. He might be looking for a career change after it has become apparent that he never in fact graduated college – a sore point for a competition that tries to focus on education over sports.
Known more for his imposing presence in the middle for the New York Knicks during the NBA’s “glory days”, Patrick Ewing has been serving his coaching apprenticeship for a number of years now. Since 2002 when he started with Washington as an assistant, he has tried to broaden his knowledge in search of a head coaching role. He has also been in the assistant coaching role with Houston, Orlando and most recently the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets). Rarely mentioned when head coaching opportunities arise makes you wonder, but as an assistant he could work wonders with rookie Steven Adams and impart some knowledge on the young Thunder squad.
After being released from the Chicago Bulls for reasons really unknown, it didn’t take long for Adams to find another assistant role. He know plays second fiddle to the Boston Celtics Brad Stevens, but is widely considered one of the best assistant coaches in the league. There is little to suggest that he would leave Boston for just another assistant role, but if Sam Presti could convince him, he would be a very handy addition to the Thunder sidelines and potentially be the piece that gets them back to the NBA Finals.
Now anyone who was a fan of the Thunder while they were the Seattle Supersonics will know this name. McMillan was a terrific player in his day but also has a wealth of coaching experience. He was the head coach of the Seattle Supersonics and he also revamped the Portland Trailblazers when they had Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. McMillan is also an assistant with Team USA and he has a number of characteristics that would really help Brooks and the Thunder out. He loved his iso plays which is what Scott Brooks runs most often, but McMillan is also very much a disciplinarian. He has a knack for creating decent offensive structures and used Roy and Aldridge to perfection in Portland. He might be able to bring some different perspective and ideas around using Ibaka, Russ and KD in a more balanced and effective manner.
Have your say. Who do you think the Thunder could target to help from the sidelines? Tweet us @thunderousint or comment below!
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder