10:50am: For his part, Brooks remains optimistic, telling reporters today that he expects to return for next season, as Royce Young of ESPN.com tweets.
7:51am: Several league sources close to Thunder coach Scott Brooks have expressed doubt about his job security as the Thunder are expected to “spend time evaluating the partnership” with the coach before committing to him for another season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Magic and Nuggets would have significant interest in Brooks if he became available, sources told Wojnarowski. Oklahoma City’s contract with Brooks runs through 2016/17, with a team option on the final season, Wojnarowski adds.
Thunder GM Sam Presti has long been friends with University of Florida coach Billy Donovan, according to Wojnarowski. Donovan is another Nuggets and Magic candidate who has an increasing desire to coach in the NBA, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported a couple of weeks ago. League sources who spoke with Wojnarowski brought up the possibility of Presti targeting Donovan should the Thunder let go of Brooks.
Injury-plagued Oklahoma City went 45-37 and remained alive for a playoff berth until the final night of the regular season, but the Thunder missed the postseason for the first time since 2009. Brooks took over midway through that season, and in spite of the Thunder’s fast rise to title contention, the coach has come under fire from critics for his in-game strategy. The Thunder organization has largely remained supportive, but negotiations in the 2012 offseason on a four-year extension worth about $18MM were difficult, according to Wojnarowski, even though Oklahoma City was fresh off a trip to the NBA Finals. The Blazers were among several teams with interest in swooping in to hire Brooks then if those talks fell apart, Wojnarowski notes.
Many in the Thunder organization like Brooks, who has close relationship with management and players alike, Wojnarowski writes. Still, the specter of Kevin Durant‘s contract, which expires after next season, clouds the Thunder’s future. Durant, the league’s reigning MVP and scoring champ, played in only 27 games this season largely because of a broken foot, precipitating the Thunder’s slide down the standings.