Here is the second part of our roundtable on Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. If you missed part one, click on the link below.
Ben Becker: I’m surprised no one has brought up money yet when it comes to why Brooks is still on the job.
While there isn’t definitive salary data available for coaches the way there is for players, a cursory internet search leads one to the conclusion that Brooks’s $7 million annual salary is in the upper end of the range for NBA coaches — maybe as high as top 5. No reasonable person could look at Brooks’ body of work with the Wizards and conclude he’s a top-5 NBA coach.
So if Brooks were to work out a new deal, it would very likely have to be at a reduced salary. In reality, talent seldom takes a pay cut to stay with the same company; they move on “to pursue other opportunities,” and usually take that pay cut elsewhere (on a related note, the human ego is a weird and powerful force).
If Tommy Sheppard is still in charge this offseason, I expect he’ll want the opportunity to pick his own coach, as he inherited Brooks. If Tommy’s not running the show, you can be sure that a new GM/President of Basketball Operations will want his own guy.
When you boil it all down, I think it’s unlikely Brooks returns to the bench next year. But these are the Wizards, so you never know.
Kevin Broom: There’s an obvious limit to what anyone on the outside can know about how good a job a coach is doing. Three weeks ago, there was lots of talk about how Brooks had obviously ”lost the team.” People were pointing to body language and Beal looking frustrated at the end of losing games. And then the Wizards won 7 of 9.
Brooks obviously didn’t know how to coach defense, and then during that winning streak, their defense was pretty good. And so on.
None of this is to say he’s done a good job or that he should be brought back for next season (or longer). I never would have hired him in the first place, and if it was my call, I’d replace him. But, this is the Wizards, and they have a penchant for interesting decisions.
If they make the playoffs and Brooks wants to continue his head coaching career, I would expect him to be back at a lower salary. I don’t think he could leave the Wizards and get another NBA head coaching job. His best bet to line up a future gig is to get the Wizards back in the playoffs and at least have a feisty series.
Given the COVID-19 mess, the Westbrook injury, and the Bryant injury, I suspect that simply making the play-in games will be enough for the team to bring him back. They’ve had ample reason and opportunity to fire him during the season. I don’t think it’ll take a lot for Sheppard and Leonsis to extend him for another couple years.
Alan Jenkins: Let’s not forget why Scott Brooks is coaching the Wizards in the first place... The Wizards clung onto a pipe dream that he’d lure Kevin Durant to Washington in the summer of 2016. Obviously, that didn’t happen and aside from the 2016-2017 season which was the franchise’s best season in years, he doesn’t have much to show for over the past 5 years.
In this instance, it’s the simple questions that tell you everything - Is the franchise in a better position than it was in 2016, and is there a legitimate reason to be optimistic about the future? The team is in a much worse spot now than they were five years ago and who knows how long it’ll take to turn things around. I’m not sure how much making the playoffs (and likely getting bounced quickly) changes that perception.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of player development and outside of one season, there hasn’t been a whole lot of winning. I can’t envision Brooks being in D.C. after this season but like a lot of other folks here have said, this is the Wizards and weirder things have happened.
Kevin: One other thought: Sheppard was part of the executive team that hired Brooks. There’s no reason to think Brooks is not his guy.
Osman Baig: I largely agree with Kevin. If they sneak into the play-in or get into the playoffs, I think the organization will consider it a success and keep him. Ben’s point about salary makes sense, but I’m not sure what options Brooks will have so if they were to offer him a 2/10 or 3/15 extension, would he turn it down?
Do I think he deserves to stay? Absolutely not. Sheppard mentioned wanting to see the ball move “I love seeing the ball move. I love to see athletic players come to play the game uninhibited”.
I would say Sheppard hasn’t put that type of roster around Brooks but the style of play under Brooks this season in no way resembles that image. On top of that he has a spin the wheel approach to rotations, is reactive versus proactive, and seems to be unable to develop talent. Even i- game, they seem to be a mess in late game situations and does he ever challenge calls? Maybe he thinks he can collect them and use them all at once in the play-in.
Albert: If Brooks remains the head coach next season, I think we can all say that the next three to five years will be mediocre at best. Hopefully we’ll have a shot at something better than that, though it also means there’s a risk the Wizards are just plain awful in the standings as well.