Picture taken by Bryna Kramer
(This article was originally written for WizardsXtra)
The Washington Wizards officially introduced Scott Brooks as the franchise’s new head coach during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
The Wizards and Brooks agreed to terms last Thursday after Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Vice President Tommy Sheppard visited Brooks in California to seal the deal. According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, both parties agreed to a five-year deal worth $35 million. Brooks, 50, is now one of the six highest-paid coaches in the NBA.
During his time as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he had a .620 winning percentage during the regular season and made three trips to the Western Conference Finals plus a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012. He was also named the NBA’s coach of the year in 2010.
Here’s a summary of the major points from today’s press conference:
On hiring Brooks:
Grunfeld, who spoke first at the press conference, said that Brooks was the organization’s top candidate. “We just felt like he was right coach for our situation,” he said. “His record speaks for itself. He’s been where we want to be and where we want to go to.”
Ted Leonsis, the majority owner of the Washington Wizards, echoed these sentiments. “Ernie and I really believe that this was the right hire for our team,” he said. “We thought that, in this off-season, bringing Scott in, who was the most sought after coach out there, was the right thing to do.”
On Brooks’ decision to sign with the Wizards now rather than waiting:
Brooks took last season off after he coached the Oklahoma City Thunder for six-plus seasons.
During this time away from the game, Brooks said he had “the luxury to really reflect on the things I’ve done in the past, and what I want to accomplish in the future.”
He said he came away from this time off knowing that “you have to have an outstanding owner, and we have that in Ted, you have to have a great leader in your general manager and president, and we have that in Ernie, and you have to have a great roster.”
Brooks said he looked at these things and realized that this is the team, when it became available, that he wanted. “I got everything I wanted. I wasn’t looking for anything else. This is where I wanted to be.”
On Brooks’ coaching style and player development:
One of the issues with the Wizards’ squad this past season was that all players were supposedly not being held accountable. When asked about this and what Brooks would do to change this culture, he said, “I love our players and you have to hold your players accountable. But I always felt that the best teams in the history of this great sport have been teams that have held each other accountable. We will have that and we will work on it on a daily basis.”
Brooks, prior to joining the Wizards, had a reputation is being a players’ coach; he is credited with helping develop the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. However, he was regularly criticized for his offensive sets, lineup configurations and substitution patterns.
In terms of his plans for player development with the Wizards, Brooks said, “I love developing players … Once we are all committed to being an NBA player, we’re NBA players. Once you get drafted or you get picked up, you’re an NBA player. I’ll coach everybody from the guy that plays the most minutes to the guy that doesn’t play a lot minutes. I will coach them with every thing I have and I will build a staff that believes in the same philosophies that I believe.”
Brooks elaborated on the what that looks like: “Developing players isn’t just on the court. It’s off the court, its in the film room, its in how you talk to each other. It’s a variety of things… it’s challenging at times.”
On John Wall:
With John Wall being the leader of the Wizards, Brooks was asked about his expectations for the three-time all star. He said that he expects all players, including John, to come back after this summer as better players. “I think John has another level. He’s been a three time All-Star. That’s incredible in itself… He has another level. Maybe even two or three more level.”
Brooks elaborated on this by specifically talking about his relationship with Wall moving forward: “Point guards are the coach on the floor. We will have a connection. We won’t agree on everything. But John and the rest of the guys will understand one thing, that we will find the best way to move forward in all situations. A lot of times it won’t be my way, it’ll be our way.”
Eventually, someone asked question on everyone’s mind: Is Brooks going to help sign upcoming free-agent Kevin Durant?
Brooks and Durant’s close relationship has sparked speculation that he was hired solely to help lure Durant back home to Washington this summer. Prior to the press conference, Grunfeld made it clear that he hired Brooks for reasons other than Durant; he wanted a coach that could foster the Wizards core’s development, rekindle their defensive identity, and had experience winning.
At the press conference, Brooks deftly avoided the question by focusing on the current team. “I’m excited about the team,” he said. “This is a great group of guys. I understand the question, but I’m excited about the group of guys we have here.”
On Washington, D.C. and Wizards’ fans:
Another topic at the Brooks was the Washington, D.C. community, specifically his thoughts on the impact he might have in the community.
“I love [the DMV area],” he said. “This has always been one of my favorite places to play as a player and as to coach in this great community. It’s a great fan base. They love their basketball. I’m thrilled and excited, honored and humbled to be in this community.”
Later on, he ended the press conference by answering a question about Wizards’ fans, specifically why fans should not give up on the team after they did not make the playoffs. “Fans deserve to have a team that competes every year in the playoffs. We’ve had great fans over the years. We will put a product on the floor that they can be proud of, because that’s important. It’s important for our players to understand that our job is to play hard for our fans every night. This market is incredible. We have a global fan base and we can reach all over the world. We have an obligation, night in and night out, to play at the level that we are capable of playing at. I’m looking forward to continuing to connect our team with our fans.”