- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Scott Brooks talks like a man who expects to return to the Washington Wizards next season. Even with last week’s ouster of longtime general manager Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards coach talks about the team as if he is still an integral part of its future.

But the reality is this: Brooks has yet to receive any assurances from owner Ted Leonsis about his status.

A day after the Wizards’ season wrapped up, Brooks reiterated he’s not worried about his job. Speaking at the team’s practice facility Wednesday for his year-end press conference, Brooks said he will meet with Leonsis “soon” to discuss his future.

“I’m excited about moving forward with the group that we have and the potential that we have and also the challenge that we have,” said Brooks, who has two years left on his contract. “I haven’t been told anything different. I’m not saying this in an arrogant way, but I worry about my job day to day. I don’t worry about my job long-term.

“I worry about doing my job today. If that’s good, I can do it again tomorrow.”

In the meantime, Brooks said he’ll use the next two-to-three weeks to reflect on how the Wizards can improve. Washington finished with 32-50 this season — the worst record of Brooks’ three-year tenure.

Washington dealt with a significant number of injuries — including the loss of star John Wall — but the team’s problems went beyond health. Multiple players suggested in their exit interviews with the media this week that the team’s culture needs a change.

All-Star Bradley Beal said Washington needs a “winning culture,” while starter Tomas Satoransky said the team didn’t give a consistent-enough effort. Reserve center Ian Manihmi indicated there’s “a lot of stuff that’s unwritten, unsaid that’s going on in the ball club,” though didn’t expand.

Brooks, who plays a role in setting the team’s tone, was evasive when asked how the culture needed to change.

“I’m going to look at myself and be better at those things and you have to,” Brooks said. “It’s one thing, we’re not a culture that blames one another. We’re a culture that has to look at one another and try to make each other better and it starts with me, and it goes down to the staff and we have to help that along to make our players better.”

When assessing what he could have improved on, Brooks pointed to Washington’s record in close games, adding he takes responsibility for that. The Wizards, per ESPN, were 5-6 in games decided by three points or less this season.

Critics have wondered if Brooks is still the right voice for the Wizards. Since his arrival in 2016, Brooks has rarely called out his players publicly — especially individuals. He’s cut down on practices and shootarounds, too. How much does that contribute to the Wizards looking unprepared? Defensively, the Wizards were a mess this season — allowing 116.9 points per game, second-most in the league.

Brooks has also received criticism for not playing first-rounder Troy Brown Jr. earlier in the season and for heavily relying on Beal, who led the league in minutes.

Beal, though, said the players still believe in Brooks.

“He’s not a big in-your-face-all-the-time type coach,” Beal said. “He’s a players’ coach. He gives us a lot of freedom to go out and get it done. A lot of times, we’re the ones playing. He doesn’t play, so he can only do so much. It’s up to everybody. It’s a collective group. It’s on him, it’s on me, it’s on up top to be able to turn this thing around.”

But Brooks understands the way the league works. Even teams who have won the NBA Finals, he said, change from year-to-year. Asked about possible changes to his coaching staff, Brooks said: “Everything is on the table.”

“We won 32 games,” Brooks said. “So our roster is going to be different.”

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