East Union grad brings Valley work ethic to NBA

By DENNIS WYATT

Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is a master of strategy and instilling work ethic.

The 5-foot-11 former point guard who had a Cinderella playing career in the NBA including a championship ring as a player on the 1994 Houston Rockets developed both as a youngster growing up in Lathrop where he worked in the fields during the summer.

Brooks became infatuated with basketball when the Lathrop community center gym — now named in his honor— opened in the 1970s. He hit the gym to play basketball every day, after school, and late at night.

It’s not that Lathrop had midnight basketball. That’s where Brooks started sharpening his strategic thinking. He found that if he slipped a piece of foil between the lock and the door he would be able to get back in when the gym was closed.

Brooks never let big obstacles stop him whether it was towering NBA players on the court or challenges in his childhood.

Brooks was the youngest of seven children his mom Lee was left to support after their father left when Brooks was 2 years old. His mother worked six days a week and often 12 hours a day in an automotive parts operation, picking crops in the summer and doing odd jobs.

When harvest rolled round, Brooks and his siblings would join their mom in the fields topping onions and in orchards picking walnuts.

The 1983 graduate of Manteca’s East Union High first played college basketball at Texas Christian University for a year before switching to Delta College in Stockton. Brooks spent his junior and senior college years at the University of California at Irvine. He scored an average of 23.8 points a game for the Anteaters and converted 43.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Brooks wasn’t picked in the 1987 NBA draft and ended up playing for Albany Platoons that won the Continental Basketball Association’s 1988 championship. Philadelphia signed him after that.

Brooks’ 10-year career defied conventional wisdom given few ever thought a 5-foot-11 point guard could play in the NBA — let along survive and thrive. His NBA playing career included stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.

His NBA career stats include playing in 680 games, averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 assists per game with a 456 percent field goal shooting accuracy.

Brooks took the Oklahoma City Thunder as their head coach to the 2012 NBA Finals where they lost to the Miami Heat has ties to the Sacramento Kings.

He served as an assistant coach with the Kings and then the Denver Nuggets before joining the Seattle SuperSonics coaching staff before the 2007-08 season. He moved with the SuperSonics eastward when they became the Thunder and he became the interim head coach when P.J. Carlesimo was fired on Nov. 22, 2008. Five months later he was the outright head coach. Brooks led the Thunder to the playoffs in his first five full seasons with Oklahoma City. The East Union High basketball standout and graduate was picked as the NBA Coach of the Year in 2009-10 when he collected 50 plus wins to lead the Thunder to the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. That reflected an improvement of 28 wins over the previous season’s win-loss record.

Before being dismissed by the Thunder, Brooks compiled a 338-207 win loss record. The 51-year-old Brooks has been the Wizards coach since April 2016.

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