The Washington Wizards were pressing Wednesday to try to seal a deal with top target Scott Brooks to make him their new coach, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Wizards, cognizant of the potential threat posed by the Houston Rockets as a suitor for Brooks once they are eliminated from the playoffs, have ramped up their efforts to take Brooks off the market with a five-year offer believed to be in the $30 million to $35 million range.
The Rockets, sources said, were optimistic as recently as Monday that Brooks would wait until their job is officially open before making any decisions. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy is the co-favorite with Brooks in Houston and, according to sources, would indeed be highly interested in returning to the Rockets if the job comes open as expected.
Van Gundy, who still lives in Houston, has been working in television since leaving the Rockets at the end of the 2006-07 season. The Rockets fired Kevin McHale after a 4-7 start this season and are widely expected to make another coaching change at season’s end, having gone 37-34 under interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff and quickly falling into a 2-0 series hole against the 73-win Golden State Warriors.
The NBA’s coaching market is moving faster than usual, with the Minnesota Timberwolves coming to terms Wednesday with Tom Thibodeau to become their coach and president of basketball operations, and both the Brooklyn Nets (Kenny Atkinson) and Phoenix Suns (Earl Watson) wasting little time in identifying their new head coach.
To that end, sources say, Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld traveled to meet with Brooks on Wednesday at the former Oklahoma City Thunder coach’s offseason home in Southern California in hopes of striking a deal.
Brooks emerged as the front-runner for Washington’s vacancy almost from the moment it opened, with Randy Wittman fired after four-plus seasons in charge following the Wizards’ final game of a disappointing 41-41 season.
In addition to the success he had in Oklahoma City, where he posted a record of 338-207 and made a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals among his five playoff appearances, Brooks has been mentioned as a likely coaching target for the Wizards for months, given Washington’s well-chronicled intent to pursue D.C. native Kevin Durant in free agency this summer.