The Washington Wizards officially announced the hiring of Scott Brooks as the franchise’s 24th head coach Tuesday afternoon.
The two sides agreed to a five-year deal worth $35 million, according to people with knowledge of the situation, making Brooks the only coach, player, or team executive under contract through the 2020-21 season. Brooks, who is now one of the six highest-paid coaches in the NBA, will be introduced a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Verizon Center.
“I am beyond thrilled to return to coaching with a team that is filled with such potential and to be able to join an organization that is committed to helping us reach our goals,” Brooks said in a statement. “I’m very grateful to Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld for this opportunity and I can promise the great fans of Washington that we will work extremely hard both on and off the court to represent them in a manner fitting the most powerful city in the world.”
Brooks, 50, took last season off from coaching after six-plus seasons as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s head coach. After replacing P.J. Carlisemo on an interim basis 13 games into the 2008-09 campaign, Brooks posted a .620 winning percentage during the regular season plus three trips to the Western Conference Finals and an NBA Finals berth in 2012. He was named the NBA’s coach of the year in 2010.
A 10-year NBA veteran as an undersized point guard out of UC Irvine, Brooks gained a reputation as a players’ coach, had his Thunder rank among the best defensive clubs annually, and is credited with helping develop the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
The Thunder, however, never won a championship with Brooks, who was regularly criticized for his offensive sets, lineup configurations and substitution patterns.
“Scott’s approach to the game, track record for player development and ability to communicate with his players made him the clear-cut choice to guide our team as we continue to rise as contenders in the Eastern Conference,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said. “His accomplishments as a coach are matched only by his sterling reputation around the league and we’re confident that our fans and players alike will embrace and support him as he leads the way.”
Brooks’s connection with Durant — the two are said to have a very good relationship — has sparked speculation that he was hired to help lure Durant, an impending free agent, back home to Washington this summer. While the history between the two doesn’t hurt, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld zeroed in on Brooks after firing Randy Wittman hours after Washington’s season finale on April 13 for reasons beyond Durant. He sought a coach that could foster the Wizards core’s development, rekindle their defensive identity, and had experience winning.
Grunfeld moved fast on Brooks and didn’t interview any other candidates, partly out of fear that other teams, including the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, would attempt to woo Brooks. The owners of the Rockets and the Minnesota Timberwolves reached out to Brooks before the Wizards secured him. Washington and Brooks agreed to terms last Thursday after Grunfeld and Vice President Tommy Sheppard visited Brooks in California.
“Scott was our top candidate and we moved quickly on an agreement to make him our head coach,” Grunfeld said. “His presence, the core players we have returning and our cap flexibility this summer have us all looking forward to the possibilities of what our team can accomplish.”