Let’s just get this out of the way before the NBA offseason gets any further along:
Phil Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy’s name will be floated about with any present and future head coaching vacancies until they officially sign on the dotted line.
No one knows this more lately than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Since losing to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and in full force over the weekend, both Jackson and Van Gundy’s name were linked to the Thunder with the pending future of current head coach Scott Brooks’ contract extension with the team up in the air.
On Sunday afternoon, Thunder general manager Sam Presti put a verbal stop to that rumor mill before it spun out of control.
“To me, it’s rubbish,” Presti said when asked about an ESPN report that Jackson and Van Gundy were being considered if the Thunder could not re-sign Brooks.
“Scotty is an integral part of our organization and critical to our success. We value him greatly and we’re looking forward to having those (contract) conversations, as he said, in the coming days.
“He’s been integral to our success. We wouldn’t be the situation that we’re in without him and his commitment to our organization and our players.”
The “rubbish” comment can be equally applied to those who believe Brooks should not be back on the sidelines for Oklahoma City.
Brooks’ contract ends at the end of June, but that does not mean his tenure with the team will. A long-term contract is apparently being discussed with Brooks wanting to sign a four-year guaranteed deal, but the hang-up is Oklahoma City is thinking more along the lines of two or three years.
But consider how far the franchise has come since Brooks took over the head coaching duties in the 2008-09 season. All he has done is help lead the team from a 23-win season, to a postseason appearance a season later, and the Western Conference finals in 2011 before losing in five-games to Miami in the NBA Finals this season.
Is that worth another four years?
Throughout the course of the playoffs, we heard so much about the value of keeping a core group together and watching them mature over time both on and off the court. The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs come to mind, and the work provided at the hands of Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich is a testimony to each of those franchises success.
And now — if all goes according to plan with Brooks — it will not be long before the Thunder will be able to emulate those blue prints. Sure, solving the free agency riddle of James Harden and Serge Ibaka also needs to be addressed. But just picture Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka locked up for the long haul with Brooks running the show.
Forget “rubbish.” That picture is down right ridiculous and scary good in the NBA.
Although the loss to the Heat will sting all offseason long, there is still some unfinished business in OKC to take care of.
Right after the Finals concluded, Durant called Brooks his “guy for life” and for good reason. Brooks has helped develop not only the talent on the floor, but a winning culture throughout the organization.
Now it is time Presti and the Oklahoma City brass call Brooks their guy with a deserved contract extension.