Q&A: Scott Brooks

Courtesy of Erik Horne

On what he’s thought about Westbrook’s play since being fired in 2015

“Just like what everybody else is thinking, he’s an amazing player. I had the luxury of watching him develop the first seven years of his career and what he’s doing now is not through luck. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. He’s very consistent, he’s diligent in his work every day. He’s what you want with all your players – to improve every year, find something that you can come back every year as a better player. And all the great ones do that. You can go down the history of the game, they always come back (with improvements). Even the ones you don’t think can improve – the Jordans, the Birds, the players in that caliber … they always come back with something different in their game. He’s an amazing player and on top of all that he’s a great person.”

On his emotions being back in Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy Arena

“It’s great emotions.  We had a lot of great runs in this building, a lot of amazing games. Even as I’m walking onto the floor today, even the first year when we were struggling … 3-29 and having our fans continue to come out night after night and support us … as I’m walking off the court (fans were saying) ‘hang in there, we’re gonna be better next game.’ At that point I was thinking ‘you have no clue. We’re not gonna be better next game. We’re probably gonna lose the next game also.’ But, still, they always kept us up … they kept myself and they kept our team. I’m excited about the game tonight.”

On how Brooks will remember the run the Thunder had in his seven years

“I was excited about what we did. We were very young, and when you’re coaching a young group of guys, fighting to be NBA players and finding their niche in this league, there’s a lot that has to go into that and we had a lot of good players. Unfortunately, we came up three games short to win a championship, but there’s a lot of teams that don’t have the runs that we had in the age that we had our guys in. Unfortunately, injuries happen. We made some tough decisions with trades and things of that nature, but that’s part of it. I have nothing but great memories. Even the year we had all our injuries, we talked about resiliency as a group. We mentioned it day in and day out as a group, how you bend up don’t break. We didn’t break. Anthony Davis hit one incredible shot to keep us from being in the playoffs that year (2014-15), and things might have changed.”

On what it was like when fired by Thunder

“The most influential person in my life has been my mother and she passed away when I was here. She taught me many important lessons. You have to be able to make choices that help you and benefit you moving forward. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. I was disappointed for the staff. I was disappointed for the group that we had. We talked about being resilient. Being resilient is bending but not breaking. Being resilient is not changing and blowing things up. But we didn’t do that. I still respected this decision. I did not … I respect the decision. I was not happy with it, but I’ve moved on. It gave me a lot of opportunities to reflect last year having off. I wanted to get better as a coach, get better as the leader of a group whenever I was going to be with my next organization. I have nothing but much much love for the state, the city, the fans.”

On if he uses it as motivation

“Tonight’s game? Sure I’d like to win, but I wanted to win last game against the Kings. I want to beat the Spurs and Brooklyn and Denver and Milwaukee the next week, and Orlando. I want to beat them all. You have to have that mindset as a coach and you have to have that mindset as a player. What we’re trying to do is instill a mindset in our organization that every day is important. You guys heard me talk about that for many years, and I believe it. It’s my fiber. It’s how I was raised. You have to do your job every day. You can’t expect results and you can’t be given it. You have to earn it. Tonight’s game is obviously going to be a tough game for us. Oklahoma City is a talented basketball team. They have a lot of good players. Russell is obviously an amazing MVP-type player but they have a lot of good players that can help him win games.”

On what it’ll feel like for Brooks to likely be cheered on the road

“I talked about that yesterday. I don’t know how they’ll respond. I have a feeling they might appreciate what we did as a group. I feel the same about the people here. I have a deep appreciate for what they’ve accomplished as a group, coaching them. The fans have been right behind it. There’s so many things you can look back at – the 3-29 start and them continuing to build us up. The Gasol tip in Game 6 (2010 playoffs) … you just wanted to step onto the court and grab a microphone and say ‘hey’ to 20,000 people ‘leave, you don’t have to be here 20 minutes after the game still cheering. Go home. We’re gonna get better.’ Those memories, those are in me forever. Getting to the conference finals. Coaching two All-Star games. Those are things that I can never ever ever take for granted. It wasn’t because of me, it was because we had great players who continued to work together and build themselves and compete against themselves in practices, and have that competitive spirit at 7 p.m. every night.”

On Westbrook’s first start, what he saw in him then and now

“That was one of my biggest mistakes. It took me five games to start Russell. I knew that he was our starting point guard. I believed in him. I even said it yesterday – we worked him out and during his pre-draft workout, what he did was … I’d never seen a point guard do that at his pace and his athleticism, at his strength and his toughness and his quickness. All I was thinking was ‘thank goodness I’m coaching and not playing because I’d never be able to stay in front of a guy like that. I’d use my six fouls very aggressively, though.’ … We ended up winning, that was my first win as the head coach. We were in Memphis. We went small that game. We played a small-ball lineup with (Desmond) Mason at the 4. I thought the end of that second quarter was huge. Russell into the starting lineup was a no-brainer. It wasn’t … every coach would have done that eventually. To be 15 (points), five (rebounds) and five (assists) as a rookie, you knew that he was onto something very special.”

On injuries and how tough it is to forget about the “what ifs?”

“It’s part of it. It’s part of all of us. We all have the ‘what if?’ in our lives. If you don’t have that you’re not living. But (there are) definitely ‘what ifs?’ I know I have to keep talking about Oklahoma City, but that year (2014-15) was tough on all of us. To see Kevin miss … Kevin misses 55 games, Serge missed 20 games, Collison missed a month, Adams missed a month, Andre missed a month. We had a lot of guys miss a lot of games but we were resilient. We won 45 games and the tough part was we started 3-9 with Russell and Kevin missing most of those games combined.

“It was fun. Surprisingly, I can say this: I’m not saying that was my best moment as a coach but I had a lot of fun that year. I remember playing in Boston, Nick was our 3-man (small forward) and Nick and Perk (Kendrick Perkins) … they ended up running a side pick-and-roll. And all I was saying to myself was ‘I can’t wait to see what happens.’ And it wasn’t disastrous. It was cool to see the guys compete. We knew we were banged up but we never used it as an excuse because that was our mentality. I’m proud of that and I’m proud of what we did that year.”

On what he thought of Rockets guard Patrick Beverley as a player

“That changed a lot, obviously (Beverley running into Westbrook in 2013 playoffs). We fought through a tough trade and we ended up winning 60 games that year and we were on a roll. That game we were on a roll. Tells you how tough Russell was. He hurt himself and he played that second half. We didn’t know, we thought, banged knees. Even the next day, we were optimistic that everything was going to be all right in a few days.

“That wasn’t a dirty play. It was an aggressive play. A lot of players do that. That’s how he plays. That’s how he has to compete in this league, by giving effort every minute he’s on the floor.”

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