Thunder: If you didn't like late-game coaching from Scott Brooks, brace yourself for Billy Donovan
One of the gripes about Scott Brooks heard most often over the years was his coaching late in games.
Plays weren’t well-designed.
Players in the game weren’t the best options.
You might want to brace yourself, Thunder Nation. One of the biggest knocks on the prohibitive favorite to replace Brooks is poor coaching late in games.
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Yep, Florida coach Billy Donovan might have lots going for him — he apparently has enough that multiple reports have the Thunder in serious contract negotiations with him — but he definitely isn’t a late-game master. Over the past five years, his Gators were 20-21 (.488) in games decided by five points or less.
By comparison, the Thunder was 70-65 (.519) over the same time period.
Here are a couple things that I noticed when I crunched the numbers for OKC and Florida over the past five seasons:
* Brooks didn’t pad his overall record in close games in the regular season. He was only three games over .500 (57-54) in the regular season while he was two games over .500 (13-11) in the playoffs.
Would a better mark in the postseason have been better? Of course. Heck, it might have won a world championship and saved Brooks’ job in the process. But in the playoffs, any time you win more than you lose, it’s a good thing.
* Donovan had his best close-game record with his best team. In 2013-14 when his Gators went all the way to the Final Four and lost in the national semifinals, they were 6-1. Maybe it figures that the record would be best with the best players.
But here’s the thing: Brooks’ best close-game record wasn’t with his best team. In 2010-11 when the Thunder lost to the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals, it was 22-13 (.629), but in 2011-12 when it went to the NBA Finals, it was 16-11 (.593).
That means, at least in part, that Brooks did a pretty good job even when he didn’t have his best team.
* Brooks was above .500 in games decided by five or less points in three of the past five seasons — 2013-14, 16-13 (.552); 2011-12, 16-11 (.593); and 2010-11, 22-13 (.629).
Dovonan was above .500 in two of the past five seasons — 2013-14, 6-1 (.857) and 2010-11, 6-4 (.600).
Who knows? Maybe Donovan will be better in late game situations with better players. Only time will tell on that.
But here’s something we don’t have to wait to know for sure: the teams that he’ll be facing have way better coaches and way better players than he’s faced at Florida. He was coaching against SEC coaches. He was scheming against SEC players.
The Thunder needs someone who can figure out a way beat San Antonio and Memphis, not Texas A&M and South Carolina.