Scott Brooks out as Washington Wizards coach; contract talks fall through, sources say

The Washington Wizards announced Wednesday that the team would not bring back coach Scott Brooks, with general manager Tommy Sheppard saying it was his decision not to renew Brooks' deal.

"It is something from a personal standpoint that was very, very difficult," Sheppard said of moving on from Brooks. "Scotty is probably one of the finest people I have ever worked with in my life ... a dear close friend. But in this business, we have to be about results moving forward and ability of getting better. And I made the decision to do this.

"I wouldn't say it didn't work out," he added. "I just think it's time to move on."

The two sides failed to come to an agreement on a new deal, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

After the Wizards were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook endorsed bringing Brooks back. Westbrook had been reunited this season with Brooks, who coached the point guard in Oklahoma City.

"I take all that into account," Sheppard said when asked about Beal's and Westbrook's feelings on Brooks. "I had thorough conversations with everyone in the organization. I am aware of how people feel. I am aware of how I feel.

"This is showbiz, it's not show-friends," Sheppard added. "And what we got to do as an organization is continue to do whatever it takes to have sustainable winning."

The Wizards will enter their coaching search while also trying to settle the future of Beal, who is entering the final year of his contract next season. Sheppard said the franchise's search would be "very thorough, very robust" and emphasized that it would include a "very diverse, inclusive group of people that we will look at."

Brooks' departure comes after he led the Wizards (34-38) to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. In five seasons, Brooks was 183-207 with three playoff appearances, including making the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2016-17.

The season started with a lot of optimism after the Wizards traded John Wall for Westbrook. But the team suffered several injuries, including season-ending ones to Thomas Bryant and rookie Deni Avdija.

Brooks also helped navigate Washington through a season that was threatened by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Wizards had their season come to a halt for nine days in January -- going 13 days without playing a game -- when seven players entered the NBA's health and safety protocols.

"We didn't know we were going to enter the third ring of hell," Sheppard said.

By April 5, Washington was 17-32. But the Wizards rallied, winning 17 of their final 23 regular-season games to get into the play-in tournament before ultimately becoming the eighth seed.

"That is not taking away from Coach and what he was able to do," Sheppard said. "We had some success, 17-6 down the stretch, we made the playoffs, 0.6 chance of ever making the playoffs, we defied Vegas, and those are exciting times, great memories. But there is also the rest of the season, prior to that, and the four years before that. You got to factor all that stuff into consideration."

The Wizards allowed the most points in the NBA last season and the second most in the previous two years. They never ranked better than 15th in the league defensively under Brooks.

Sheppard said the Wizards recognize how many teams are having success with a deep coaching staff that contains an offensive and defensive coordinator in some cases.

"I think everything starts with being a great communicator," Sheppard said of the traits the team will be looking for in a new coach. "That's certainly an area Scotty thrived in. But the areas we are going to look for that are vision checks [and] key performance indicators moving forward. I certainly think you got to take a long, hard look at the defensive end, you got to look and see, efficiency-wise, can we be better off offensively, defensively."

With Stan Van Gundy also out with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, there are now six head-coaching openings in the NBA: Boston, Indiana, New Orleans, Orlando, Portland and Washington. Nate McMillan is currently the interim coach in Atlanta, but the expectation is that he will be rewarded with a new contract after the playoffs.

Brooks had been the seventh-longest-tenured coach in his current job. Only San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, Miami's Erik Spoelstra, Dallas' Rick Carlisle, Golden State's Steve Kerr, Utah's Quin Snyder and Denver's Michael Malone have had their current jobs longer.

"Coach Brooks was an unbelievable unifier," Sheppard said of his navigating the Wizards through the pandemic pause last season and their COVID-19 outbreak this season. "And we all got through these very difficult dark moments in our franchise history because his leadership was exemplary.

"You look at everything certainly in the past," Sheppard added. "But I can't do much about the past. Have to focus on the future and where we are going. And with that in mind, that was the decision that we made, that maybe there was a new way for us to get better."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.