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News » Van Gundy feels for Brooks

Van Gundy feels for Brooks

Van Gundy feels for Brooks
Jeff Van Gundy entered the NBA head coaching fraternity the same way as Scott Brooks - as an interim coach.

There's one huge difference. Van Gundy, a commentator for ESPN, inherited a Knicks team that was 34-25 late in the season. Brooks inherited the 1-12 Oklahoma City Thunder, a team headed for yet another lottery pick.

"I have great empathy for what's he going through," Van Gundy said. "You don't have a training camp. You have to put in what you believe in on the fly. And I had an advantage. I had a really good team with a star player to build around."

Van Gundy coached Brooks a decade ago. He said playing for coaches like Rudy Tomjanovich, Dick Motta, Bill Musselman and Jim Lynam and working under coaches like George Karl and P.J. Carlesimo have prepared Brooks to be a head coach.

"He will be able to pick and choose what he likes and doesn't like from all of them," Van Gundy said. "All of that will serve him well."

So which coach will Brooks pattern his style after the most?

"I've been influenced by just about everybody I've played for - good, bad, indifferent," Brooks said. "I was lucky enough to play for a lot of good coaches. That was the hard part of being traded and cut and going from city to city. But it gave me a good slice of the coaching spectrum."

Van Gundy said Brooks "being traded and cut" helped mold him into who he is today. Brooks' playing career began in the minors. Then he was a backup NBA point guard for 10 seasons. His coaching career began in the ABA with the Southern California Surf and L.A. Stars.

"When he played for me, what stood out is he came from a humble beginning and worked his way up from the CBA," Van Gundy said. "That hardens you to the NBA life. He obviously had to rely on a lot of intangibles just to stay in the league. He was mentally and physically tough, a tenacious competitor."

Viewed as an up-and-coming assistant, Brooks, 43, was a finalist for the Sacramento vacancy two years ago when the Kings chose Reggie Theus. Brooks also interviewed with Thunder general manager Sam Presti in 2007 before Presti chose Carlesimo, who was fired last week.

Presti could have hired an unemployed veteran coach like Avery Johnson, Flip Saunders or Van Gundy. Instead, he's giving Brooks a four-month audition. Lynam, now a 76ers assistant, said "auditions" are how Brooks climbed the ladder as an NBA player.

"He wasn't taking plays off," Lynam said. "The crowd loved him. He's very bright. You only needed to tell him something one time and - boom - it was done."

The Thunder reduced turnovers drastically, played better half-court offense and most importantly showed improved energy in Brooks' first two games. His third game was a much different story.

Cleveland handed OKC its most lopsided loss during a 13-game losing streak, a streak that has included 20- and 30-point deficits. But three NBA coaches Brooks played for said he'll be motivated by the challenge of building around young players like Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook.

"I just love the guy," Tomjanovich said. "I know jobs come because of someone's misfortune. But it's part of the business. I think this guy will be very good for that team. With time, he'll get those guys to start winning games."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 1, 2008


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