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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Brooks is done, but who is surprised?

Scott Brooks was fired yesterday as the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder after narrowly missing the playoffs on the final night of the regular season. Surprisingly enough, Brooks had been the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NBA prior to yesterday. The coach who has kept his job for longest is Gregg Popovich, who has been in command of the Spurs dynasty since December of 1996. After that, the waters get a little muddy.

Erik Spoelstra has been the coach of the Miami Heat since April of 2008, making him the second-longest tenured coach in the league. I don’t know about you, but that seems a little short. How has no coach been able to keep a job for more than seven years? This is the first year that Spoelstra did not make the playoffs in his seven years in charge of the Heat and his first season in the post-Lebron era. I believe that Pat Riley has faith in his young coach, but how many more losing seasons would it take for Riley to start searching for a new coach? I’m not sure, but in today’s win-now NBA climate where the margin for error is so small I would not be surprised if it is sooner than most people think.

The Thunder might be touted as one of the most underachieving groups in the history of the league if they do not achieve anything more than what they already have. Led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, with MVP candidate James Harden coming off the bench, the team went from being an eight seed in the 2009-2010 playoffs (the first playoff appearance in franchise history) all the way to the NBA finals in 2012. They lost, ironically, to Spoelstra’s Heat. After trading Harden after the 2011-2012 season to the Houston Rockets, the team reached the Conference Semi-finals and Conference Finals in the next two seasons, respectively.

To be fair, Durant has been sporadically injured, including for most of this season, a year after his MVP campaign. But that does not matter today. If you want to keep your job, you have to win games with the players you have. No ifs, ands or buts. In the number five spot of the longest-tenured coach list is Monty Williams of the New Orleans Pelicans, but that does not mean he has not been close to losing his job.

In fact, it has been reported that GM Dell Demps and Williams were told that they would be fired if the Pelicans did not make the playoffs this season. There was no insurance for injuries or anything else, including the fact that the Pelicans played in a division in which every other team made the playoffs. The Pelicans clinched the eight seed in the West, which eliminated the Thunder from the playoffs. But imagine if Anthony Davis had been injured for as many games as Durant had been this season. Would the situation be different? Would Brooks, the NBA Coach of the Year just five years ago in 2010, still have his job? I would venture to say that he would.

Nine NBA coaches were hired in 2014, with nine more being hired in 2013. That means that eighteen teams have experienced coach turnover in the past two years. Patience from owners is dwindling and in a time when the NBA brand is expanding and cashing in, teams do not want to be stuck in the lottery for long. Unfortunately for coaches, that means two options: Win or go home.