With last night’s 118-94 win over the Golden State Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals and have pushed the defending champions to the brink of elimination. Former Oklahoma City Head Coach Scott Brooks joined The Jim Rome Show and talked about his former teams’ postseason success, even giving credit to his successor, Billy Donovan.
“I’m proud of them. From first hand, I’ve been step by step and watched their development, their growth take place,” Brooks said. “The thing is that they never make excuses, and we never did when I was the coach. I have a lot of great memories there. Even the year that we didn’t make the playoffs, everybody in our starting five missed over a month of the season, and KD I think 55 games, and we just missed the playoffs by half a game.
“They got a talented team, they play well together and they got two of the best players in basketball. I think Coach Donovan has done a good job of putting it all together and making it work.”
After sitting out the 2015-16 season, Brooks accepted the head coaching position with the Washington Wizards last month, and since then, he’s heard comparisons of new point guard John Wall to his former star Russell Westbrook, a comparison he believes is fair.
“There’s only a few guys in the league that you can really say they have a high motor, like they can play back to back NBA games on the same day, and I think Russell is obviously one of those guys, and I think John is the same way,” Brooks said. “To be a 3-time All-Star at the age of 25 is pretty impressive in itself. He’s a terrific player, but I think he has room to improve, and we’ll continue to help him grow his game not only on the court, but when you’re the point guard, you have leadership responsibilities, you’re the extension of the coach on the floor, you have to make sure everybody is on the same page. You have to understand time and score, and I think he’s done a great job with that, but I think there’s always room to improve.”
A former player himself, Brooks touched on his introduction to the NBA and specifically playing on the same team and living with Hall of Famer Charles Barkley in Philadelphia during the 1988-89 season.
“Charles Barkley was terrific. He’s one of the most generous, giving human beings on the planet, and he never wants to get credit, because he wants to have that tough guy role but he’s not, he’s a big teddy bear. I think I can whip him in a fight,” Brooks laughed. “But the thing I love about him is he’s generous, he cares about his teammates, he gave me a great understanding of how to be an NBA pro and I appreciate it to this day.”
Brooks also admired Barkley for his willingness to battle against bigger guys, despite being undersized.
“He was 6’ 4”, maybe 6’ 5” and played against all the bigs in the league, and he brought it every single night. There was never an excuse,” Brooks said. “You get banged up in the NBA, you get a twisted ankle, you get bone on bone contact, you get thigh bruises. He played every night and he never made an excuse if he didn’t play well. He always manned up, ‘hey, I got to play better’ and he took responsibility. He held himself accountable.
“If you’re on a good team and your star player doesn’t hold themselves accountable it’s tough to have success. And that’s why Charles has been many times an All-Star and had success as a player and on the teams he’s been on.”