The Oklahoma City Thunder might be keeping an eye out for certain hired coaches still in the playoffs, but they’re also moving forward with their head coach search, beginning with Florida’s Billy Donovan, who might be the favorite to land the job.
Donovan is the first candidate Sam Presti, the Thunder’s general manager, has interviewed since Scott Brooks has been fired last week. Donovan might also be on the top of the list as far as Presti is concerned. The Thunder have hired two former members of Donovan’s staff at Florida over the last 12 months, and the two are considered to be very close.
Donovan did fail to lead Florida into the NCAA tournament for only the fifth time in his 19-year tenure there, but Florida isn’t Kentucky or Duke that keep reloading with one-and-done stars after every year. At Florida, it’s about cultivating classes and maturing along with them until they peak. Sometimes it ends in titles, other times they fall short of that mark.
Donovan almost made the jump to the NBA in 2007, signing with the Orlando Magic but backing out of it immediately. He then signed a contract with Florida that denied him the option of jumping to the NBA for five years. He is now allowed to make that switch again, but the biggest hurdle standing in the way isn’t him, his talents or his desires. Donovan has been ready and waiting to take an NBA job for almost a decade.
His family is the issue, and his connections to the community where he has worked for almost 20 years. Donovan is signed until 2020 with the Gators, making almost $4 million a season, but his buyout clause is just $500,000. He resisted offers (allegedly) from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers last season, but maybe the Thunder, with the talent they have and his connections to the general manager and other members on the staff, will be too difficult for him to turn down.
Donovan has been the head coach of Florida’s men’s basketball team since 1996. He has two national championships (2006, 2007), making the Final Four one more time in 2014. Overall he has a 467-186 record with the Gators (71.5%) and 202-109 in conference play (65%). He coached Marshall for two years before taking the Gainesville job.