WASHINGTON — Scott Brooks will not return as coach of the Washington Wizards after five seasons with only one playoff series victory in 2017 to show for his tenure.
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Brooks’ split with the team to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the team hadn’t publicly announced the decision. Brooks and the team were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract after his $35 million, five-year deal expired.
Washington made the playoffs in three of Brooks’ five seasons but hadn’t won a playoff round since his first season.
General manager Tommy Sheppard skirted the issue of Brooks’ future after the Wizards were eliminated in five games in the first round by Eastern Conference top-seeded Philadelphia. Washington was 183-207 overall during the regular season with Brooks as coach and struggled defensively.
The Wizards allowed the most points in the NBA last season and the second-most in the previous two years. They never ranked better than 15th in the league defensively under Brooks.
Washington brought in Brooks five years ago in hopes of luring area native Kevin Durant home to play for the Wizards. Since then, John Wall missed time with injuries and was traded to Houston for Russell Westbrook, and Bradley Beal emerged as Washington’s top scorer, but that didn’t amount to much postseason success.
Washington is now one of six teams with the coaching job open in the NBA, joining Orlando, Portland, Boston, Indiana and New Orleans. The Pelicans, like the Wizards, had their job come open Wednesday when it was revealed that Stan Van Gundy was out in New Orleans after one season.
Many of the candidates for the now half-dozen openings will be crossovers: Chauncey Billups and David Vanterpool are on several of the lists, as are past head coaches like Terry Stotts (who left Portland) and current Brooklyn assistant Mike D’Antoni.
It also raises the chance that the NBA could see a female coach for the first time, with longtime San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon, Duke coach and former Boston assistant Kara Lawson, South Carolina coach and current U.S. women’s national team coach Dawn Staley and New Orleans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon the most prominent women on the lists of candidates.
Lawson has a connection to the Wizards after serving as a television analyst for them.
Brooks had been the seventh longest-tenured coach in his current job. He was hired in 2016; only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Utah’s Quin Snyder and Denver’s Michael Malone have had their current jobs longer.
Sheppard praised Brooks for “keeping this team together through some of the most difficult, dark moments probably in franchise history.” He wasn’t the only one supportive of Brooks’ performance as a lame-duck coach.
“He did a job that I’m pretty sure people didn’t think he was able to do,” said Westbrook, who previously was coached by Brooks with the Oklahoma City Thunder. “He kept us together. He kept us encouraged. He kept us fighting.”
Brooks said at the time he “wouldn’t want to move on” from the Wizards, who are now looking for their sixth coach since 2009.