“It is with deep sadness and overwhelming grief that we mourn the sudden loss of my son, Sean,” his mother, Deborah Brown, said in a statement issued by the 76ers on Tuesday. “Our family asks that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this incredibly difficult time.”
A second-round pick of the Dallas Mavericks in the 1992 NBA draft, the burly 6-foot-10-inch Rooks carved out a career as a rugged and reliable interior player, averaging 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game in 12 NBA seasons with the Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic.
After a brief post-NBA stint playing in Spain, Rooks embarked on a coaching career, working his way up from the D-League as an assistant with the Bakersfield Jam, New Mexico Thunderbirds and Sioux Falls Skyforce before eventually earning a shot at the NBA level as a player development assistant and big-man coach with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. He’d later occupy a similar role on Brett Brown’s staff with the 76ers, working closely with highly touted youngsters Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor.
The Sixers’ players reportedly loved him, but after two years in Philadelphia, Rooks had reportedly been replaced on Brown’s staff. He was evidently looking to continue his coaching career. In addition to Rooks interviewing with the Knicks, both Spears and Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer report that he was in the running to be the head coach of the Greensboro Swarm, the Charlotte Hornets’ newly launched D-League team, which is set to begin play for the 2016-17 season.
News of Rooks’ death came as a surprise, and sent a shockwave through an NBA community of players who played with or against him, worked with him as a coach, or just came into contact with him at some point in his decades-long life in basketball:
The outpouring of grief and support hints at the high regard in which so many pros held Rooks as a player, a coach and a person.
“I got a lot of support from the fans — especially Clippers fans — during my career and that was rewarding,” he said in a 2011 interview with Clippers.com. “I was always a player who was wanted and that was encouraging as well. I might have been labeled a journeyman, but I had the respect of so many coaches and players. Overall, I have a lot of fond memories and no regrets.”
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