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Thunder coach Scott Brooks will be making his debut as an NBA Finals coach when the series starts on Tuesday. Brooks was, however, a player the 1994 Houston Rockets who won the title over the New York Knicks. Brooks, who averaged 5.2 PPG in 73 games in the 1993-94 regular season, did not play in that finals series. He did play in five playoff games in ’94 scoring 11 points.
As a head coach, Brooks becomes the 54th coach to make his debut in the NBA Finals. What is not certain is will he be facing a coach who has already won a title (Doc Rivers with the Celtics in 2008) or a coach who has been to the Finals but has not won a championship (Erik Spoelstra with the Heat last year)?
If past history is any indication, Brooks may want to face Miami and Spoelstra: In 22 title series, a coach making his NBA Finals debut has faced off against a coach who has won a title. The team with the coach that has won the title has won 18 of those series. When a first-year finals coach has faced a coach who has been to the finals but has not won the title, the first-year coach’s team has won three times and lost twice.
Here’s a look at the coaching match-ups for the NBA Finals in the 65-year history of the league:
A first-year NBA Finals coach vs. a first-year NBA Finals coach: 13 times
A coach who has won a NBA title vs. a first-year NBA Finals coach: 22 times (the team with the coach who had previously won an NBA championship won 18 of those 22).
A first-year NBA finals coach vs. a coach who has been to the NBA Finals but has not won a title: Five times (The first-year NBA finals coach has won three of the five)
A coach who has won an NBA title vs. a coach who has been to the NBA Finals but has not won a title: 17 times (The coach who had won a title won 10 of the 17 series).
A coach who has been to the NBA Finals but has not won a title vs. a coach who has been to the NBA Finals but has not won a title: 0 times.
Two coaches who have each won an NBA title: Eight times.
In looking at the coaching matchups over the past 20 years, 12 of the 20 title series have seen a first-year coach in the NBA Finals face-off against a coach who has previously won a championship. The coach with the title has won 10 of those 12 series. In fact, of the last 21 NB A Finals series, the team with a coach who had previously won the title has won 16 of those 21 series.
If Brooks and the Thunder win the title against the Celtics, Brooks would become the fifth first-year NBA Finals coach to defeat a coach who had won a title. They four who have accomplished this feat:
1948: Buddy Jeannette, first-year in NBA Finals with Baltimore, defeated Eddie Gottlieb and Philadelphia.
1974: Tom Heinsohn, first-year in NBA Finals with Boston, defeated Larry Costello and Milwaukee.
1994: Rudy Tomjanovich, first-year in NBA Finals with Houston, defeated Pat Riley and the New York Knicks.
2008: Doc Rivers, first-year in NBA Finals with Boston, defeated Phil Jackson and the L.A. Lakers.
Twenty different coaches have won the NBA championship in their first year in the finals. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle accomplished this last year in his first year coaching in the NBA Finals. In the last 25 years, five coaches won the NBA title in their first year coaching in the championship series: Carlisle (2011), Rivers (2008), Greeg Popovich (1999), Tomjanovich (1994) and Phil Jackson (1991).
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