Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Saturday, November 22, 2008
Carlesimo fired; Brooks to take over Thunder in interim

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

The Oklahoma City Thunder, off to a league-worst 1-12 start in their new home town, fired coach P.J. Carlesimo following Friday night's loss to New Orleans.

Assistant coach Scott Brooks was named interim coach, and team executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti said Saturday that Brooks will finish the season.

"He's someone that I do think has a skill-set potential," Presti said to the Associated Press on Saturday. "This is a new opportunity for him and as he continues to make his way and grow with our team, we're going to certainly support him and help him throughout the process."

The Thunder dropped their 10th straight game on Friday night, a 105-80 home loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Sources told ESPN.com that Carlesimo was fired before the team boarded a flight to New Orleans for Saturday's game against the Hornets.

Brooks was told of his promotion after the flight took off. Carlesimo did not make the trip.

The team said it also relieved Paul Westhead of his duties as assistant coach.

Definitely Not OK

The Thunder, who fired coach P.J. Carlesimo on Friday, rank at the bottom of the 30-team NBA by any number of measurements.

Category OKC NBA rank
Wins 1 Last
PPG 88.9 29th
PPG diff. -12.3 Last
FG pct. 40.4 Last
Turnovers PG 17 Last

"This isn't about one person," Presti told the Associated Press Saturday. "There's accountability for everybody involved -- players, coaches, myself and anyone involved with our basketball team. We understand that."

Carlesimo accompanied the Thunder when they moved to Oklahoma City from Seattle before this season. He was 21-74 in 95 games as the team's coach.

There had been word in NBA coaching circles that Carlesimo was in trouble, despite low expectations, because the young Thunder had not been competitive. The sight of a double-digit lead turning into a 20-point loss to the struggling Clippers on Wednesday prompted Oklahoma City's famously loyal fans to briefly boo their new team, which never happened when the Hornets were in town for two seasons.

"We have to get better no matter who the coach is," second-year star Kevin Durant said to the Associated Press Saturday night in New Orleans. "To start off like we did my first year and now this year is tough to deal with. If we continue to work hard, things will start to turn around for us."

In eight seasons as an NBA coach with Portland, Golden State, Seattle and Oklahoma City, Carlesimo has a career record of 204-296 in 500 regular-season games.

Brooks played on the Houston Rockets' 1994 NBA championship team during his 11-year career. He bounced around with seven teams before becoming a Denver Nuggets assistant in 2003. Brooks also worked for the Sacramento Kings before coming to Seattle last season on Carlesimo's staff.

"Things aren't good," Brooks said to the Associated Press on Saturday night in New Orleans. "It's a challenge to get our guys motivated to play every night. ... Our team needs direction. I have clear plans to make this team play with much more energy and passion."

This marks the second time Carlesimo has been fired early in a season. He took the Trail Blazers to three straight playoff appearances in the 1990s before moving to Golden State. His time there was marked by the Latrell Sprewell choking episode during his first season with the team. He was fired after a 6-21 start in 2000, his third season.

He got another chance after serving as an assistant on three NBA championship teams with the San Antonio Spurs, whom Thunder owner Clay Bennett once represented on the Board of Governors.

In Oklahoma City, this was expected to be another season of rebuilding around Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant and fellow All-Rookie Team selection Jeff Green. Veterans Desmond Mason and Joe Smith were brought in to provide leadership, and salary flexibility following this season, and the team added No. 4 overall pick Russell Westbrook as another potential building block.

But the result was an even slower start than last season, when the SuperSonics lost their first eight games before winning two straight. That season, which featured all the wrangling about a potential move to Oklahoma City, ended with a franchise-worst 20 wins.

ESPN.com senior writer Chris Sheridan covers the NBA. ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.