Coach Brooks Reflects on 2011-12 Season
On Saturday, Brooks addressed the media to recap the 2011-12 season that saw the Thunder manage a difficult, compressed 66-game schedule, finish second in the Western Conference in the regular season and become Western Conference Champions before ultimately falling in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat. It was a wonderful season for the entire organization, and one that made Brooks proud of his team.
“We came up short, but like I told our guys, it’s a long journey to get there and we almost accomplished that goal,” Brooks said. “I feel good with where we are as an organization and where our players are as players. That being said, we still have to keep working and getting better. There are no guarantees that the natural next step would be a championship. We all start the same next season, 0-0. You have to win one game to get to the next game. It was a good year, a lot of good things took place.”
When Brooks took the stage at the fan rally at Will Rogers World Airport on Friday afternoon when the team returned from Miami, he said he will always remember how hard his team played this season. On Saturday he reflected further on how much he enjoyed being around the players this season and why they were such a joy to coach throughout the year.
“It’s a group of players that enjoy being around one another,” Brooks said. “You can never discount that being a factor to a good team. … Our guys, it’s a brotherhood. They respect one another and they show that respect every day by challenging each other, by getting after each other in practice, by pushing each other. We talk about the youth of our team, but that has nothing to do with youth, that has everything to do with guys that have high character that have big respect for the game.
“We’re very fortunate,” Brooks continued. “(General Manager) Sam (Presti) has done a great job of putting together a group of men that have respect for the game and are competitive. They’re self-motivated. … It’s always just about improving and developing our guys.”
On days like today, exit interview day, the players, coaching staff and front office staff all meet individually and collectively with one another in order to determine a game plan for the off-season. Brooks and his staff have come up with goals and ideas for the players in terms of things to work on throughout the summer, and at the same time, the Thunder basketball operations staff will also look for ways to improve.
“I’m going to meet with every player this afternoon and I will discuss that,” Brooks said. “It’s a long list. I throw a lot of things at guys. I think we have multiple players that can improve on all areas of the game. Then we have some players that have to focus on one or two areas of the game."
After the season ended later than it normally would and the Thunder advanced to the NBA Finals, many of the players will have a shorter summer than they usually would before next season begins. With some players participating in international competition, the temptation exists for the coaching staff to ask the guys to take a little bit of time off when they can. Brooks joked, however, that the guys in this Thunder locker room love basketball so much, they wouldn’t want to take a break from improving their games.
“You can tell our guys that (to take it easy), but that’s the only area they aren’t coachable,” Brooks said with a wry smile. “They’re not going to listen to me, they’re going to stay in the gym. I love that. I love guys that work. I believe that you have nothing else to do. This is your craft. This is what you have to work on every day. You have to come back a better player. We have 100 days or so to come back a better player, and our guys will do that.”
In a final statement about how the Thunder will look back on this season, this Playoff run and the experience of the year, Brooks said he is happy with how his team continued to grow and develop. Despite falling just short of its ultimate goal, the Thunder has plenty to look back on with fondness, and forward to for the 2012-13 season.
“It obviously was a great experience,” Brooks said. “We have a lot to be proud of. We have a lot that we can improve on also and our guys understand that. Everybody on our team should and will come back a better player.”