MONDAY, 11:19am: Washington is the front-runner to land Brooks, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Stein suggests the Rockets are Brooks’ top alternative but are at a disadvantage because they’re in the playoffs and their focus is on that.
5:18pm: The Wizards have made Brooks their top priority, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical relays.
FRIDAY, 9:59am: The Wizards plan to meet with Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau as they conduct their coaching search, a source tells Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. John Wall has said in the past that he would want the team to hire Brooks if the coaching job were to come open as it did Thursday, Castillo also hears. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski first identified Brooks as a strong candidate for the position in the wake of the news that the team was firing Randy Wittman, though reports conflicted on Thibodeau’s candidacy. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said that he’ll head up the search to replace Wittman, whom the Wizards formally dismissed earlier Thursday.
Brooks’ most obvious attractive quality is his relationship with Kevin Durant, the Washington, D.C. native whom the Wizards have long planned to pursue when he becomes a free agent in July. Durant made a point Thursday of praising the job Brooks did as his coach from 2008 to 2015, as The Oklahoman’s Erik Horne relays. Still, the prevailing sentiment is that Brooks alone wouldn’t be enough to woo Durant to his hometown team, Castillo writes. Brooks is also reportedly believed to be waiting to see if the Lakers job opens.
A Wizards player who spoke to Castillo expressed concerns about the heavy workload Thibodeau is known for demanding from his players, and the former Bulls coach figures to command a high salary. Strong indications exist that Thibodeau is seeking player personnel power, as Chris Mannix of The Vertical reported earlier this week, and that would be tough to come by in Washington, where Grunfeld is apparently staying in charge of the front office. Still, the Wizards are prioritizing defensive acumen and NBA head coaching experience as they sort through candidates, as both Castillo and J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic hear, and Thibodeau checks both boxes.
Thibodeau won Coach of the Year honors in 2011, a year after Brooks took home the same award. Grunfeld has a history with both Brooks and Thibodeau, who served as a Knicks assistant coach for three of the years that Grunfeld was in charge of New York’s basketball operations, Castillo notes. Grunfeld agreed to hire Thibodeau as an assistant for then-Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan in 2007, but Thibodeau backed out of the deal before signing a contract, as Castillo also points out. Grunfeld acquired Brooks as a player for the Knicks in 1996 and traded him away a year later, Castillo recalls.
The Wizards also want their next coach to command accountability, as Wittman irritated players with his selective accountability, according to Castillo, who also mentions Jeff Hornacek, Mike D’Antoni, Sam Cassell, Mark Jackson, Kevin McHale, Nate McMillan, and Jay Wright as potential candidates. The team is indeed interested in Hornacek and D’Antoni, as previous reports have indicated.
Which coach do you think is the right fit for the Wizards? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.