Scott Brooks tried his best to put "coachspeak" aside Tuesday, before the Wizards leave to play a game at the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's where he coached for seven seasons until he was fired in 2015.
"I’m actually looking forward to it. I’m not going to stand here and say it’s just one of 82 games, but it is one of 82 games," Brooks said with his team taking a three-game road trip that includes stops at the San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets. "I had great memories with that organization. I started off coaching a lot of young players that I really respect the work that they put in. We accomplished a lot as a group. We were one of the youngest teams in NBA history get to the NBA Finals. … We had a great run. Unfortunately that ended for me but that’s the business we’re in."
Except for the first season when Brooks took over, the Thunder always had a winning record. They won 50 games or more four times and two seasons there were exceptions. In 2012 when they made the NBA Finals, it was a 66-game season because of the lockout. The Thunder won 47. In his final season, Brooks had injuries to his All-Stars Russell Westbrook (15 games missed) and Kevin Durant (55). They still won 45 games but missed the postseason.
When Brooks got the bad news from GM Sam Presti, he was at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. He never properly said goodbye. He spent the 2015-16 season out of the NBA.
"I’ve been cut a lot of times as a player. I’ve fought back and made teams. In coaching it’s a different animal," said Brooks, who has the Wizards out to a 6-10 start. "When you get fired, I was in California. I didn’t get a chance to see the people that meant so much to me and so much to our success as a team. I get to see a lot of them when I go back. Even the ushers, to see Betty, Dean, Coach, Anna, those are the people that behind the scenes make your organization work.
"It’s going to be a cool experience. Don’t know how they’re going to respond. I know the people. The people in Oklahoma City are phenomenal. I’ve learned so much about myself during that time. Now I even follow college football. Never did that. OU, OSU football is important there."
While Brooks insisted that he communicates with everyone he came in contact with at Oklahoma City, even those who have gone on to other organizations, he has spoken "very little" with Presti.
He was replaced by Billy Donovan who left the University of Florida and led the Thunder to the conference finals last season. James Harden left long ago. Then it was Brooks and this summer Durant exited.
There's a good chance Brooks' return is received best. They won 62% of their games with him (338-207).
"That’s a little ambitious," he said, "if I’m thinking they’re going to give me an ovation."