Billy Donovan’s interest in coaching in the NBA hasn’t been much of a secret, and he now has found his destination.
The Thunder will hire the Florida head coach as their replacement for recently fired Scott Brooks, who led Oklahoma City to a 45-37 record and no playoff appearance in 2014-15, according to The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun. Sports Illustrated also called it a “done deal.”
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Yahoo Sports reports that the contract is for five years.
Donovan, 49, joins the Thunder after a 19-year tenure at Florida, where he won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. During the 2013-14 season, Donovan led the Gators to a school-record 36 victories that included a school-record 30-game winning streak. He got his head-coaching start at Marshall after serving as an assistant to then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, who coached Donovan as a player at Providence.
After the 2007 championship season, Donovan signed on to coach the Magic but returned to Florida within days of the announcement. As part of his release by the Magic, he agreed not to coach in the NBA for the following five seasons.
As Donovan reboots his NBA coaching career, he inherits a roster loaded with star power, headlined by 2015 NBA scoring champion Russell Westbrook and 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant. Keeping Durant happy is paramount to the Thunder’s future, as the 26-year-old is an unrestricted free agent next year.
The Thunder, though, have been plagued by injury during recent years. They went 45-37 but missed the playoffs this year, even as Durant, Westbrook and power forward Serge Ibaka missed significant time with injuries. The previous two postseason runs featured high seeding gone to waste because of injuries to Westbrook and Ibaka.
Brooks coached those three stars from very early on in their NBA careers, and Donovan now must establish a rapport rather quickly. But he has proven skilled at dealing with NBA-caliber college players, from Jason “White Chocolate” Williams early in his career to Bradley Beal, who was the 2012 NBA Draft’s No. 3 overall pick.
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