Brooks pre­ceded by leg­end at Irvine

Wiz­ards coach’s num­ber re­tired by alma mater

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Can­dace Buck­ner

IRVINE, CALIF. — There’s a story about Scott Brooks al­most get­ting ar­rested at McDon­ald’s while in col­lege. An­other about the time he played against the school that didn’t re­cruit him and ev­ery time he made a shot, Brooks mean-mugged the op­pos­ing head coach. There’s even a story about Brooks play­ing fear­lessly while scar­ing team­mates who thought he may never get up from one of his nightly falls.

The anec­dotes shared about Brooks’s two years at UC Irvine from 1985 to 1987 have grown into folk tales. Some of the de­tails have been em­bel­lished over three decades of sto­ry­telling. Things might not have hap­pened ex­actly the way his loyal friends retell them — Brooks may or may not have come this close to catch­ing a case all be­cause his fa­vorite fast-food chain for­got to hold the onions — but one fact re­mains un­af­fected by the pas­sage of time: Brooks worked harder and played tougher than any­one on the court.

This is the true leg­end of Scotty Brooks, the over­looked kid who be­came a col­lege stand­out, the un­drafted player who won an NBA cham­pi­onship and is now the head coach in his fourth season with the Washington Wiz­ards. A por­tion of his story came full cir­cle Satur­day when Brooks’s alma mater hon­ored him by re­tir­ing his No. 12 jersey, only the se­cond num­ber to be dis­played on the Bren Events Cen­ter wall in the his­tory of the Anteater bas­ket­ball pro­gram.

“The guy worked his butt off,” said Johnny Rogers, a UCI team­mate. “He’s a guy that ev­ery­one loved. Just an over­achiever, re­ally tough.”

Rogers was a se­nior en­ter­ing the 1985-86 season when Brooks, a 5-foot-10 scrawny guard, trans­ferred in for his ju­nior season. The in­tro­duc­tion to his new team­mate ended with Brooks vom­it­ing.

Brooks had played the pre­vi­ous season at San Joaquin Delta, a ju­nior col­lege, and very few Anteaters rec­og­nized him to be the re­cruit when he showed up for vol­un­tary work­outs.

“I didn’t even know we signed the guy,” Wayne En­glestad, an­other team­mate, said in re­call­ing the day the bas­ket­ball team ran steps of the build­ings on cam­pus.

By the time play­ers reached the roof of the engi­neer­ing build­ing, ac­cord­ing to Rogers and En­glestad, Brooks lost his lunch. Rogers won­dered why he never quit. En­glestad thought “this walk-on won’t make it.” Brooks learned never to eat McDon­ald’s again be­fore run­ning stairs.

“He has shares in McDon­ald’s or some­thing,” En­glestad quipped about how much Brooks, his former col­lege room­mate, loved the golden arches.

En­glestad re­called a time when the two high-tailed it to the McDon­ald’s drive-through 10 min­utes be­fore clos­ing and Brooks or­dered a Big Mac with no onions. As a kid, he hated onions and al­ways picked them off his burg­ers. On this par­tic­u­lar night when Brooks ex­am­ined his food and no­ticed onions, he staged a one-man protest for a burger without the of­fend­ing diced veg­etable.

“There was a line be­hind us of five or six cars,” En­glestad said. “He lit­er­ally would not leave his car un­til Irvine P.D. showed up.”

Brooks’s dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion worked bet­ter on the court than in late-night drive-through lines. Re­cruited to be the third guard, Brooks started and played like a man ob­sessed by per­sonal slights. In in­ter­views, he shared how the re­porters over­looked him dur­ing the team’s me­dia day or crafted head­linewor­thy quotes about Univer­sity of Pa­cific, once his dream school lo­cated near his home­town of Lathrop, Calif., that didn’t give him a schol­ar­ship.

“I wanted to be ‘Lo­cal Boy Makes Good,’” Brooks told a Los An­ge­les Times re­porter in 1987 af­ter 22 points against Pa­cific. “In­stead, it was ‘Lo­cal Boy Goes to Irvine … and Does Bet­ter Than Ex­pected.’ ”

Brooks per­formed his own stunts — fling­ing his body into tow­els boys for the sin­gle-minded pur­suit of loose balls, search­ing for layups and con­tact as though one couldn’t hap­pen without the other, and col­lect­ing bruises along his back­side while tak­ing of­fen­sive fouls.

“I just re­mem­ber him … get­ting pum­meled and then he’d be lay­ing on the ground and you’re think­ing: ‘Is he go­ing to be able to get up?’ ” said Rogers, who now works as the Wiz­ards’ pres­i­dent of pro per­son­nel.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.