Scott Brooks returns to familiar territory Wednesday night, though the view will be very different.
"That's a little ambitious if I'm thinking they're gonna give me an ovation," Brooks said Tuesday night, then added that he was "hoping" for a warm response.
After taking a year off, Brooks took over as Wizards coach in April. Brooks' first NBA head coaching gig was with the Thunder, from 2008-15. He went 338-207 with the Thunder, going from 22-47 in his first season to 50-32 in his second. Brooks coached the 2012 team to the NBA Finals, with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Brooks built strong relationships with Durant and Westbrook, and became known for his loyalty to his players, as well as for his winning.
"Scotty, he's my guy, honestly," Westbrook said. "He gave me a real shot to be able to do some of the things and kind of let me go out there and make mistakes."
When Westbrook made those mistakes, Brooks "always had my back."
Brooks was fired in 2015 after the Thunder missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. He'd taken the franchise to the playoffs for five straight seasons.
"We had a great run," Brooks said. "Unfortunately it ended for me, but that's the business we're in. I have a lot of respect for the organization. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the players that I coached."
When Brooks was fired, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said the decision was "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."
Presti and Brooks have spoken "very little" since Brooks said Tuesday. Brooks said that he's looking forward to his return, but also not looking back.
"I appreciate the opportunity [Presti] gave me," Brooks said. "There's no hard feelings. It's always a difficult decision for him to make and for me to handle. But you always have a choice on everything, to be better from it or be bitter and frustrated. I was disappointed, but I should have been. But that's part of it."
In a statement to The Oklahoman, Presti said, "When you look at the history of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Scott holds a special place. We all have great appreciation and respect for his contributions as the head coach of the Thunder during his tenure here. I know everyone is looking forward to seeing him back on the sidelines in The Peake."
"He set the tone for a lot of guys coming into the league and what it was like to be a professional and how we go about our work and our business," Thunder forward Nick Collison said. "He's very important to what we've built here, no question about that."