Youth Movement: Former NBA Coach of Year Reflects on UC Irvine History

Scott Brooks sat down in the Oak Creek Golf Club clubhouse with a composed expression. With uncertainty surrounding the upcoming NBA season, he had no intention to talk about the lockout. He was not going to mention a word about Kevin Durant no

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r was he going to talk about Kendrick  Perkins’ recent trouble with the law, unless the members of the press would chip in to pay the hefty $100,000 fee for breaking lockout rules. This was his opportunity to reminisce and share his memories of being an Anteater to the press, the team that he proudly has bragged about and has been ragged on about.

Given the free time he had during the off-season,  Brooks was approached by Otto Reyer and Henry Pontell, co-chairs of the Scott Brooks Golf Tournament, to not only attend the charity golf tournament, but also stamp his name on the tournament. The purpose of the tournament is to fundraise for the scholar athletes in  UC Irvine’s athletics program. As a former scholarship athlete at UCI, Realizing the importance of athletic scholarships, Brooks willingly jumped on the opportunity to give back to his alma mater.

“UCI gave me a start and a foundation to put me in a position to be successful,” Brooks said. “I’ve always wanted to give back. I never would have been able to attend college if I didn’t have [an] athletic scholarship. To raise money for the student athletes, it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

At 5 feet 11 inches tall, Brooks transferred from San Joaquin Delta Community College to UCI in his junior year. Under Coach Bill Mulligan’s leadership, he started all 30 games and averaged 10.3 points in the 1985-86 season. He then led the west coast in scoring with 23.8 points per game in his senior year. His four three-point field goals per game as a senior were good enough for second in the nation..

Brooks’ proudest memories of being an Anteater came on the night when the Bren Events Center first opened.  In front of a sellout crowd, Brooks scored 43 points as UCI defeated Utah State, 118-96. Brooks graduated from UCI holding the school record for season (.886) and career free-throw percentage (.859). In 2001 he was inducted into UCI’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

“[I wish]UC Irvine [had]recruited me right out of high school. I would have loved to play my four years there,” said Brooks.

One of the aspects of being a student athlete in UCI that Brooks relished was the sense of community that the UCI Athletics program brought to his life. He established relationships with UCI athletes outside basketball and was able to do workout sessions with coaches of other sports.

“Even back when I played there was integration,” Brooks said. “The sports teams always managed to spend time together and were so close. Everybody was still together. I think the program is moving in the right place.”

Although he spent his NBA playing career as a journeyman, he had a chance to play for Coach Rudy Tomjanovich and the 1994-95 champions, the Houston Rockets. After playing for six different NBA teams over the span of 10 years, Brooks called it quits after playing for an independent basketball league and pursued a career in coaching.

“I’ve played for some incredible coaches,” he said. “I learned a lot from them. There’s only 30 NBA jobs and I get to coach one of them. Every day I wake up, I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have in Oklahoma City.”

Over the course of his career, Brooks found mentors in superstar teammates Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and  bench players like Eric Smith. Many players had an impact and gave him new perspectives on how to approach the game. Along with Tomjanovich, Brooks cites Mike Fratello and Jeff Van Gundy as coaches whom he admired, but one coach stood out to him — Bill Mulligan of UCI.

Brooks believes that he owes his career to Mulligan. It was Mulligan who discovered Brooks while he was playing for San Joaquin Delta Community College in a game against Riverside Junior College. At that game, Mulligan was convinced that handing a scholarship to Brooks would be the appropriate decision..

“[Mulligan] taught [me] the game,” he said. “He was tough, but fair, and fun. He had a way of communicating that he connected with you. But he was hard on me. He wanted you to do things the right way.”

Brooks recalled Mulligan grilling him at halftime once. Although it frustrated him back then, everything fell into perspective for Brooks when he started coaching.

“He’s chewed me up many times,” Brooks said. “I remember I had 20-something points one time and he chewed me so bad I left the locker room thinking ‘How many points do I have [to score]?’”

“But now that I’m coaching, I know what he was doing,” he said. “I was the best player at that time and when you coach the best player like that, the other players will follow.”

The 2010 Red Auerbach NBA Coach of the Year is truly proud of being an Anteater and was humbled upon return.