After a tumultuous season that featured numerous injuries to key players and no postseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced Wednesday that they have fired head coach Scott Brooks. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski first broke the news before the Thunder confirmed soon after.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti released a statement on the firing:
Thunder’s full statement on the firing of Scott Brooks: pic.twitter.com/bY6ceENP0y
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) April 22, 2015
Both Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Marc Stein say Florida head coach Billy Donovan is a top candidate to replace Brooks, with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst saying Donovan has done some background research on Kevin Durant. Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie has been mentioned as a top candidate, but Ollie came out Wednesday morning and reiterated his commitment to UConn. Still SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria says Ollie remains the “No. 1 target” in Oklahoma City. Ollie finished his NBA playing career with the Thunder in 2009-10, which was Brooks’s second year at the helm.
Brooks spent just shy of seven full seasons as head coach of Oklahoma City, taking over as interim head coach in 2008-09 after P.J. Carlesimo was fired 13 games into the year. The interim tag was dropped after the year and Brooks went on to compile a 338-207 regular-season record and 39-34 postseason record in Oklahoma City. The Thunder made the playoffs in five of seven seasons under Brooks, reaching the Western Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals once, losing to the Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals.
Injuries have derailed the last three seasons. Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury in 2013 and Serge Ibaka missed two games of the Western Conference Finals last year and wasn’t 100 percent when he made a surprise return. This season, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka all missed significant time (others missed time with injuries as well), with Durant undergoing three surgeries on his foot and playing in only 27 games.
With Brooks out, this makes Durant’s impending free agency in 2016 all the more intriguing. You’d think the next coach will have Durant’s stamp of approval, but Presti reportedly made the decision to fire Brooks without consulting any of his players:
OKC GM Sam Presti made call of firing Scott Brooks w/out consulting his players, & it was about the long view more than it was last season
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) April 22, 2015
Next year will be quite the fascinating season in Oklahoma City, and as for Brooks, he’ll reportedly become a top candidate for the head coaching positions with the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets.