Brooks, Thunder Thrilled About New Contract

Sitting behind the press conference table, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks and General Manager Sam Presti played off one another like a couple of old friends. On Tuesday, the duo happily announced the news that became official Monday night: the Thunder had signed Brooks to a multi-year contract, keeping the coach-GM pair intact for the foreseeable future.

Presti gushed about the chance to have Brooks remain at the helm for the years ahead. Coming off two consecutive Northwest Division Titles and being named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2009-10, Brooks has earned a reputation for being a rising star in NBA coaching circles. In giving his opening remarks, Brooks seemed thrilled at the opportunity to continue to man the post he’s held for the past four seasons.

“Obviously I’m very excited to be a part of this great organization and this city for many years,” Brooks said. “I’d like to thank (Thunder Chairman) Mr. (Clay) Bennett and the ownership group for giving me this opportunity to coach this great, young, athletic team as I love to do. Without their leadership, commitment and dedication to our team and our city, none of this would be possible. They allow myself and our staff all of the resources to have success with our group of guys.”

For the Thunder as a team, this signing means maintaining that ever-important continuity that is so rare in the NBA. Keeping a coach and a core group of players together for the past four seasons has been a vital factor in the Thunder’s turnaround from a 23-win team in 2008-09 to a team that came within three wins of an NBA Championship in 2011-12. As a result, Presti was thrilled when describing Brooks’ impact on the team.

“It’s an exciting day for us as an organization, exciting day for our team,” Presti said. “As we’ve said consistently, Scott has been absolutely integral to our success as a team and to the success of our players. That’s been a process over time. We’re really proud to have him with us and have him continue.”

One of the areas that Presti is most proud of Brooks is in his ability to foster the type of culture that has developed around the Thunder over the last four years. With players who are dedicated to doing the right things, working every day to improve and collectively working together to represent the Oklahoma City community in the best way possible, Brooks has helped guide a core group, who started in the NBA mostly as teenagers, into being men on and off the basketball floor.

“I think his contributions are enormous,” Presti said. “We feel really good about our future. … He has a great understanding of the organization and a big part of that is because he’s helped construct it. Our job is to continue to put him in positions to impact our team, impact our players and we’re really excited about that.”

As a coach who started as an assistant with the organization before the team arrived in Oklahoma City, Brooks reflected on his first year with the team and the growing pains it went through. As a whole, the players and coaching staff have lifted themselves up and turned the team into one that sets itself to a high standard of performing at a high level. Over the course of his four years as the Thunder’s leader, Brooks has noticed growth in his own leadership abilities as he’s helped the team “learn how to win.”

“You get better, you have to get better,” Brooks said. “You can’t stay in this position and not keep improving. I think the biggest teacher I have is our players. I believe in players. I believe in what they do because of the players that we have. One of the things that Sam does is he brings in players that are committed to each other and committed to improving. If it wasn’t for the type of players that we have, it wouldn’t be as enjoyable and I wouldn’t look forward to it as much.”

Those players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and others have brought an attitude of continually looking to improve and a commitment to excellence that others in the organization have followed. From 2012 NBA Draft selection Perry Jones III to free agents like Derek Fisher who joined the team in the middle of last season, those who enter the Thunder family recognize Presti and the organization’s view of the internal expectations that Brooks has helped cultivate.

“Expectations for us are defined inside our organization based on the core values that we have,” Presti said. “Based on the people that we have, based on the understanding of ourselves and what we expect from ourselves on a daily basis. We’re going to continue to do things the same way, keep our head down, focus on how we’re doing things versus what we’re trying to do.”

In continuing with the ethic of perpetual growth and development, Brooks concluded his press conference by discussing the ways in which he can improve as a coach moving forward. While his players like Durant, Westbrook and James Harden try out for Team USA this summer and others such as Cole Aldrich, Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward and Jones compete during Summer League in order to get better, Brooks will spend time doing the same.

“I think you get better in a few areas,” Brooks said. “You have to continue to watch film and develop your game that way and also be critical in what you’ve done in the past and try to improve on it. Also, talk to coaches. I love spending time with coaches, whether it is high school coaches, junior college coaches or college coaches or other NBA coaches. I think when you’re around, you spark things and you brainstorm and you can improve. My job is to get better.”