Brooks gets special moment as Thunder reach finals
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Scott Brooks has always valued his mother's toughness.
After his father left when he was not yet 2 years old, Lee Brooks raised him and his six older siblings by working multiple jobs, building and rebuilding automotive parts and working in the fields of Northern California.
Even as a player and coach in the NBA, she held him to the highest of standards. She hates flying and refused to get on a plane to see his teams with one exception: the NBA finals.
So Brooks' payoff for guiding the Thunder past the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals was finally getting his 79-year-old mother to come to Oklahoma City to see them play.
Game 1 of the finals will be Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, with either Miami or Boston paying a visit - along with Brooks' mother.
"That's going to be a great time in my family's life. It's just nice to have her around, and it's going to be great,'' Brooks said Friday, when Thunder players were not required to practice but most were expected to drop by to work out. "My family will also be there, my wife and kids.
"It's a great opportunity for all of us to kind of reflect on what we've done to get to this and who has helped us, because you don't get to this position by yourself.''
Brooks' mother is among the team's most avid fans. She subscribes to NBA League Pass and frequently pulls up a stool in front of the television and yells at the screen during Oklahoma City's games. She said last year that if she ever came to a game, she "might be thrown out.''
Lee Brooks has seen a few Thunder games in Sacramento, close to her home in Lathrop, Calif. She honored her promise to come see her son play when he was on the Houston Rockets during their run to the 1994 NBA title.
When he was hired as Oklahoma City's coach in 2008, she didn't lower her standard a bit.
"It's either finals or bust. She's always been that way,'' Brooks said. "She's tough. She's as tough as nails.
"If I had her toughness, I would have been a starter in the NBA instead of a backup.''
Brooks has credited his mother over the years for instilling in him the toughness, perseverance and unwillingness to quit for him to play 11 seasons in the league as an undersized point guard and then to earn his way as a coach.
It all started with a work ethic. To make ends meet, his family used to work in the fields - topping onions and picking walnuts - and made it by on a "week to week'' basis. He got better at basketball by sneaking into a community center gym late at night to work out.
He'd dribble a ball five blocks to get to the gym, then run back home because it was late and he was scared.
Last summer, he held a free basketball clinic to give back at the gym - which the city has named after him.
"It takes a lot of people to get you to the position that you are as a player in the NBA and as a coach in the NBA,'' Brooks said.
Now, he'll get a chance to join a group including Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Bill Russell that has won championships as both a player and a coach. Dallas' Rick Carlisle joined that fraternity last year.
"It's an honor. I'm blessed to be able to do what I do and to coach the group of guys that I have,'' Brooks said. "When you're a kid, you always dream about playing in the NBA and then winning a championship.
"Now, I have the chance to do it as a coach. No complaints, no complaints, it's a good life that we all have.''