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Oklahoma City Thunder fire coach Scott Brooks after 7 years
spt ap Brooks

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Scott Brooks did everything but win a championship.

It wasn’t enough.

The Oklahoma City Thunder fired their coach on Wednesday, parting ways with a former NBA coach of the year who led the team to three conference finals in four years only to falter this season as his players were hit hard by injuries.

Brooks coached the Thunder for seven seasons. Starting in 2010-11, he led the team to the Western Conference finals three out of four years, and the Thunder reached the NBA Finals in 2012. The Thunder failed to make the playoffs this past season, as injuries limited them to a 45-37 finish.

Brooks was 338-207 (.620) with the Thunder and was the 2009-10 NBA Coach of the Year. He said last week that he expected to be the coach next season.

“This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member.”

Still, Brooks was criticized by many for failing to win a title with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on his roster. Durant was last year’s MVP and is a four-time scoring champion, while Westbrook was this year’s All-Star MVP and scoring champion. Presti backed Brooks throughout the season, but said Wednesday that being in position to win a title is important to him.

“It is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain,” he said. “We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to construct an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City.”

Team Chairman Clayton Bennett agreed.

“While a very hard decision, I support the need to transition to a new coach that will allow us to continue the growth and progress that will help us reach all of our goals,” he said.

The Thunder stumbled to a 3-12 start this season as injuries took their toll. As the season progressed, Brooks became annoyed with speculation and doubters.

“I understand a lot of people out there are criticizing,” Brooks said right before the All-Star break. “It’s not something I worry about. My mother gave me a lot of great lessons, and one of the biggest lessons - don’t listen to ‘they.’ ‘They’ never should impact how you think, how you prepare, and what are the things that you want to accomplish.”

Durant and Westbrook had said Brooks did a good job this past season under the circumstances. Durant played just 27 games this season after breaking a bone in his right foot. Serge Ibaka, the team’s defensive anchor, missed the final month of the season after right knee surgery. Several other players, including Westbrook, missed significant time with injuries.

“He rallied us,” Durant said last week as the team wrapped up the season. “He made sure everybody was emotionally stable. A lot of guys in and out of the lineup, and he kept everybody together. That’s what a coach is supposed to do. I can’t really say nothing about it because he did his job. He did his best job he can do, and I’m proud of him.”

Westbrook was supportive as well.

“He did a great job,” Westbrook said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for some of the stuff he does behind the scenes. Obviously, a lot of people that’s not in this building maybe want him to do different things, and want to see other things from him, but as a coach and as a friend, I think he does an amazing job of communicating what he wants out of his players.”