(Reuters) - The Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday after the injury-hit team failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Brooks, 49, had guided Oklahoma City to three appearances in the Western Conference Finals and a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals but they missed out on this postseason after finishing ninth in the highly competitive West with a 45-37 record.
“This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels,” Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said in a statement.
“Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member.”
The Thunder missed reigning NBA most valuable player Kevin Durant for most of the season due to ongoing problems with his surgically repaired right foot.
Despite playing the bulk of the season without Durant the Thunder relied heavily on NBA scoring champion Russell Westbrook and had a chance to secure a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season but came up short.
“It is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain,” said Presti.
“We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and put ourselves in the best position next season and as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program.”
The Thunder said a search for a new head coach will begin immediately. Local media have already reported that Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan is a front-runner for the job.
Brooks took over the Thunder on an interim basis in 2008 after P.J. Carlesimo was fired following a 1-12 start to the campaign.
He was hired permanently after the end of the season and led the Thunder to five consecutive playoff appearances, a run that included him being named the NBA’s coach of the year in 2010.
Brooks had a .620 winning percentage in seven seasons with Oklahoma City.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue