Born Scott William Brooks, in French Camp, California on July 31, 1965, Brooks graduated from East Union High School at Manteca, California in 1983. As a freshman, he played college basketball at Texas Christian University for a season and then transferred for his sophomore year to San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California, about 10 miles from his parents' home in Lathrop, California. One highlight of his year at TCU was being assigned the task of "fronting" Akeem Olajuwon. After only being offered a walk-on spot by nearby University of the Pacific, he declined that offer and spent the next two years at the University of California, Irvine. In his senior season at UCI, he averaged 23.8 points and made 43.2% of his three-point attempts. On the night that the Bren Events Center opened at UC Irvine on January 8, 1987, Brooks scored 43 points as UCI defeated Utah State, 118-96. He scored 41 points in a 90-79 win at University of the Pacific later that season to tie the Spanos Center scoring record.
After not being drafted in the 1987 NBA Draft, Brooks debuted professionally with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association under coach Bill Musselman. Brooks was named to the CBA's all-rookie team in 1988 and was a member of Albany's CBA Championship team that same season. Later, he played for the Fresno Flames of the World Basketball League.
Brooks played 10 seasons (1988–1998) in the NBA, appearing as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, and was a member of Houston's 1994 NBA Championship team. In 1995, Brooks was traded to the Mavericks for Morlon Wiley and a second-round pick in the only trade deadline deal of the season. Brooks signed with the Los Angeles Clippers before the 1998–99 season but sat out due to a right knee injury. The Clippers waived Brooks on February 19, 1999, re-signed him, then released Brooks in October 1999, during the 1999–2000 preseason. Brooks joined the Los Angeles Stars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 2000–01, where he was both a player and an assistant coach.
After serving as an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets, Brooks was named an assistant to P.J. Carlesimo with the Seattle SuperSonics before the 2007–08 season, and followed the team to Oklahoma City as the Thunder after that season. When Carlesimo was fired on November 22, 2008; Brooks was named interim coach for the rest of the season. On April 22, 2009, the Thunder named Brooks the 15th head coach in Sonics/Thunder history.
Brooks got off to one of the best starts for a rookie head coach in recent NBA history. He led the Thunder to the playoffs in his first five full seasons with the team. He was named the 2009–10 NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Thunder to a 50-win season and the 8th seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs, a 28-win increase over the previous season. On February 11, 2012, Brooks was named the Western Conference All-Star Coach for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida. In the shortened 66-game 2011-2012 season, he led the Thunder to the NBA Finals, where they eventually lost to the 2012 NBA Champions, the Miami Heat. In the 2012 offseason, the Thunder signed Brooks to a multi-year head coaching contract reportedly worth about $18 million.
On January 29, 2014, Brooks was named the Western Conference All-Star Coach for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.
On April 22, 2015, Brooks was fired by the Thunder a week after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in his six full seasons as head coach. He left as the third-winningest coach in Sonics/Thunder history, behind only Lenny Wilkens and George Karl.
It was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski in May that Brooks did not wish to interview for other coaching opportunities for the 2015–16 season, instead desiring to take a break and reconnect with family living in California.
On April 26, 2016, Brooks was hired by the Washington Wizards, becoming the 24th head coach in franchise history.
Brooks altered the culture of the Wizards in the off-season and met with several players.