It really is a chance, even if it's the Oklahoma City Thunder at 1-12, on a 10-game losing streak and walking head first into a stretch of at New Orleans, vs. Phoenix and at Cleveland starting tonight.
The encouragement of the moment for Brooks is that teams typically get a bounce from a coaching change. Plus, the Hornets are 6-5 overall and 3-3 at home with losses there to the Hawks (with New Orleans scoring 79 points on three days rest) and the Kings (again with three days rest, and Sac on the second night of a back-to-back).
But there is reason for long-term hope for his many fans from French Camp (birthplace), Lathrop (hometown), Manteca (high school) and Sacramento (Kings assistant 2006-07). P.J. Carlesimo out as Thunder coach and Brooks in as the interim in the first firing of the season is an actual opportunity for the guy who nearly got the Kings job that went to Reggie Theus in summer '07.
It's even a good spot apart from the obvious: He can't do worse. The Thunder has trailed by at least 30 points in five of the last nine games, has lost the last 10 by an average of 14 points, and the only win has come against the Timberwolves, not exactly planning a parade route themselves.
That perception game will help Brooks. Do anything and you look good. Win 15 of the final 69, develop Russell Westbrook, continue to develop Kevin Durant, and it will look very good on the resume, whether to stick in OKC or for one of the openings that will come in the summer. A 15-54 finish that would be dreadful anywhere else would be an improvement from the .244 winning percentage last season as the Seattle SuperSonics.
There is also the practical.
*Sixty-nine games is unusually long for an interim. That's a good thing for Brooks. Much better than taking over late in the season when a team's spirits have been crushed and they're going through the motions while planning summer vacation, the way the opportunity comes to a lot of other assistants looking for a fair proving ground that could lead to becoming a permanent head coach for the first time.
*The Thunder, terrible in most every category, has the improving Kevin Durant (good steps toward becoming a better offensive threat instead of just a volume shooter who scores a lot because he pulls the trigger a lot), the solid Jeff Green and 2008 lottery pick Westbrook. Brooks' biggest decision, if he's making the lineup decisions, may be when to move Westbrook into the starting lineup ahead of veteran Earl Watson at point guard. The interim has a 1-12 team, but he also has a team with promising talent.
*GM Sam Presti has lived up to the billing as one of the game's bright young front-office minds, particularly with cap management and trades. The Carlesimo hire is on him, too. The Presti draft record is very incomplete -- Durant was a no-brainer at No. 2 in 2007 and Westbrook is a high-risk / high-reward selection in the very early stages, a projected point guard with little experience at point guard.
The Thunder lineup under Carlesimo:
PG -- Watson.
SG -- Durant.
SF -- Green.
PF -- Nick Collison.
C -- Johan Petro and Robert Swift.
Bench -- Westbrook, Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox.
That's a team hurting a lot for offense and hurting for defense, but there are intriguing pieces and potential. That's something. Most of all, it's a No. 1 job for Brooks, and that's a lot.