Thunder officially hire Gators’ Donovan as head coach
The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Thursday that they have hired Florida coach Billy Donovan as their next head coach.
The Thunder did not disclose terms of Donovan’s deal, but Yahoo Sports/FOX Sports 1 NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the deal is for five years.
“We are thrilled to welcome Billy and his family to the Oklahoma City Thunder organization," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. "When we began the process of identifying the next head coach of the Thunder, we started with a vision and the identifiable qualities that we felt were necessary for our organization as well as the ever evolving role of the head coach in today’s NBA.
"We wanted to identify a person with the traits associated with high achieving leaders in their respective fields; a continuous learning mentality, the ability to adapt, evolve and innovate, intrinsically motivated, humility, and great tactical competence.”
Wojnarowski and Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde report that Presti has long coveted Donovan as a replacement for former coach Scott Brooks and did not seriously pursue any other candidates for Oklahoma City’s head coach vacancy.
“I want to thank Jeremy Foley, the players, coaches and staff I’ve had the chance to work with during my time at Florida,” Donovan said in a statement. “The administrative support and stability has been unbelievable here, and it is an incredibly difficult decision to leave that. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation.”
Donovan has never coached an NBA game, but he has been connected to the league more than once. In 2007, after winning back-to-back national championships at Florida, Donovan agreed to become the head coach of the Magic. However, he backed out after holding an introductory news conference and returned to Florida.
The Cavaliers and Timberwolves pursued Donovan last year, but he turned down both jobs. The Cavs went on to hire European coach David Blatt, and the Timberwolves gave their coaching job to president of basketball operations Flip Saunders.
Donovan will face immense pressure if he does take over the Thunder’s coaching position. He’ll take over a team with elite talent and championship-or-bust mentality that just missed the playoffs after an injury-plagued season.
Donovan will also be tasked with persuading superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to commit for the long haul. Durant’s contract will run out after next season, and Westbrook the season after that.
Durant has played all but one season of his NBA career under former OKC coach Scott Brooks, while Westbrook has played only 13 games without Brooks. The relationship Donovan is able to establish with his two stars may go a long way toward determining the future of the Thunder franchise.