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Thunder: Here's a vote for Mark Jackson ... and a guy who you might not know much about

So, the Thunder has fired Scott Brooks.

I’m not sure if it’s the right move or not. Frankly, how the next coach pans out will probably tell us if this was right move — and we won’t know the answer to that until this time next year.

But there are a couple guys who I believe have a great chance of success. The first is a name already being thrown around. The second is a dark horse.

First for the known commodity — Mark Jackson.

Yes, he was fired last year by the Warriors, but that wasn’t about his coaching. That was more about his personal ideology clashing with Golden State ownership. There was drama. There was distraction. And Jackson got the boot.

But he was a successful coach.

He took over a franchise that was struggling to win and turned it into a winner. He went 121-109 over three seasons, and while that may not be the greatest win-loss record, the splendid Warrior team that you’re seeing now has its roots in what Mark Jackson did.

And it’s not all about offense either.

The Warriors are a much better defensive team now than they were when Jackson took over. No doubt the current coaches deserve some credit — assistant Ron Adams prime among them — but Golden State was fourth in total defense last year under Jackson.


The Thunder needs to get back to a defensive disposition, and Jackson has a proven track record of not only winning but also coaching up defense.

Count this as a vote for Mark Jackson.

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Now for my dark horse — Chip Engelland.

Engelland is currently an assistant with the Spurs, a job that he’s held since 2005. That means he was with San Antonio when Sam Presti was there. That doesn’t necessarily make them best buds, but Presti respects Engelland.

How do I know?

Engelland is a Duke guy. He played there from 1979-83, and when Presti needed an intern one year in San Antonio, he asked Engelland if he knew anyone. Engelland suggested a former Duke manager named Amanda Green. Presti hired her then, and a few years ago, he hired her again. This time, he hired her as the Thunder’s basketball operations coordinator for legal and administration.

Presti and Engelland are cut from similar cloth.

Engelland is a shot doctor, a guy widely credited with the development of Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and others on that Spurs roster. He is widely respected around the league, and his name has come up several times for jobs, including a pretty serious look last year by Steve Kerr, who wanted Engelland to join him at Golden State. Engelland chose to stay in San Antonio instead.

Presti, though, might be able to lure him away, and if you’re looking for a link from the Spurs Way to the Thunder Way, this would be a strong one.

Listen, I’m not suggesting I would bet money that either of these guys will get the job. But both of them strike me as coaches with proven track records in the NBA. They can win and win right away. That’s what the Thunder will be looking for with Kevin Durant heading into the final year of his contract, and that’s what Jackson and Engelland could provide.


Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›