The Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly set to name Billy Donovan, a two-time NCAA title winner at Florida, as their next coach. Sources told Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that the 49-year-old will receive a five-year deal.
During his 19-year tenure with Florida, Donovan was one of the most successful coaches in all of college basketball. He made four Final Four appearances, winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. The Gators missed the NCAA Tournament just three times since 1999, including last year when the team went 16-17.
Donovan has no NBA coaching experience. He had previously accepted a position to coach the Orlando Magic in June 2007, but days later backed out of the deal.
The Thunder's decision to hire Donovan comes eight days after the team fired Scott Brooks. Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie was considered a favorite for the vacancy, but quickly withdrew himself from consideration.
The major storyline surrounding Donovan’s hire is the fate of Kevin Durant. The superstar forward is a free agent at the end of the 2015-2016 season, and there have been suggestions that he might leave the club to play in the Eastern Conference for the Washington Wizards. Durant grew up in the Washington, D.C. area.
Russell Westbrook, who shined in the second half of the season, is a potential free agent at the end of the 2016-2017 season.
Donovan's top priority might be to make sure the club can hold onto both star players. Durant is widely considered to be the NBA's best player not named LeBron James, while Westbrook has emerged as a top-10 or even a top-five player.
Ollie, who has limited coaching experience, was deemed a top candidate for the Thunder job due to his friendship with Durant, prompting many to perceive that Durant's input on the next coach might heavily determine Brooks’ replacement. But Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti reportedly didn’t talk about Donovan with his top players during the hiring process.
While Donovan might not have been Durant’s first choice, Wojnarowski reports that last year’s MVP has reached out to NBA players who went to Florida, and he’s been “positive” about bringing the coach to the Thunder. Durant had previously publicly defended Brooks, and he didn’t appear pleased with his firing.
Donovan, who has a reputation for being a player's coach, will have one season to convince Durant to stay in Oklahoma City. Washington is considered the favorite to potentially sign the six-time All-Star this summer, though Durant hasn’t given any indication that he wants to play for the Wizards or any other team.
"I've never thought about it, to be honest," said Durant about the possibility of playing for the Wizards. "I mean, I hear it in the summertime. I heard it for the first time this summer. That's when it started heating up. I love playing for Oklahoma City, man. There's just a certain level of pride that I have when I play with that Oklahoma City on my chest.
"So that's the only thing I'm focused on. Everybody knows that I represent where I come from that no matter where I play at, no matter what arena. But I'm just focused on playing with Oklahoma City. It feels like home now. That's where I am."
Durant is coming off an injury-plagued season, playing in just 27 games.