Special Olympics Athletes Inspire Brooks

STILLWATER -- Part of a coach’s job is being able to inspire his athletes, to motivate them, to lift them up.

But what inspires a coach?

For Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks, it’s turning to the athletes of Special Olympics.

“They’re inspiring,” he said. “They give us so many joyful moments. It’s fun to see and be a part of.”

He would know. For the second year in a row, Brooks took part in the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games. On May 12, he marched in the annual “Parade of Athletes” in Gallagher Iba Arena on Oklahoma State University’s Stillwater campus.

“They give everything they have,” Brooks said.

“I think it’s important that we all live our lives to the fullest and give everything we have each day. And being around these athletes – they are inspiring. It’s not about what place you finish. It’s about finishing and being around the many volunteers and support they have.”

Amid rousing cheers from the crowd, Coach Brooks joined the parade alongside such luminaries as legendary football coach Barry Switzer and Olympic gymnasts Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci.

“The enthusiasm in the building is fun,” Brooks said. “It’s a fun place to be.”

He also participated in the opening ceremony’s awards presentation. It was only fitting that the NBA’s 2009-10 Coach of the Year presented the Special Olympics Oklahoma Coach of the Year award, an honor that went to Sandy Bliss of Bartlesville, OK.

“It’s humbling to be up there to give a Coach of the Year award,” Brooks said. “I was fortunate enough to receive it from the NBA this year. You’re so rewarded by your work with all the athletes, seeing them improve day in and day out. That’s what it’s all about: making sure your athletes develop and are able to fulfill their goals.”

Now in its 41st year, Special Olympics Oklahoma this summer boasts a record number of more than 4,400 athletes. The annual competition drew praise from Special Olympics Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer J. Brady Lum.

“Think about the number of people who come together to make this happen,” Lum said. “It’s just magical, the way it all happens.”

Also on hand for the festivities were Thunder broadcaster Grant Long, Rumble the Bison and Helen of the Thunder Girls.

“The Thunder does a great job of getting involved in the community, and this is an opportunity to be around these incredible athletes,” Brooks said.

“I’ve been fortunate enough in my career that I’ve had plenty of opportunities to help out in Special Olympics, and it’s just great to be part of it again.”

Last summer, the Thunder hosted a clinic for about 50 Special Olympians in its Oklahoma City training facility.

“And what a great time our players had with the athletes,” Brooks said. “I’m proud that the Thunder’s involved with it.”

Phil Bacharach is the Director of Corporate Communications for the Thunder.