Billy Donovan is going to give it another go.
ESPN is reporting that Donovan, the head coach at Florida for the past 19 seasons, is leaving to become the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, replacing Scotty Brooks. Donovan has compiled a record of 467-186 over the 19 season Donovan has coached at Florida, including two national championships in 2006 and 2007.
This will be Donovan’s second foray into the NBA though he has never coached a professional game. After Florida secured their second consecutive national championship in 2007, Donovan signed to become the Orlando Magic’s head coach. Just a few days later, Donovan begged out of his contract so he could return to Florida. The NBA essentially banned Donovan from accepting another NBA coaching position until the five-year contract Donovan signed with the Magic ran out. The difference here is that Donovan has been talking privately about giving the NBA another go. It appears he will do so now.
Yahoo Sports is reporting that Donovan rejected offers to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves last year. Thunder general manager Sam Presti made no secret of his desire to get Donovan on his bench. Donovan was the only candidate Presti pursued. Donovan lands in a city where the expectations are heavy and hurried. His first duty will be to convince Kevin Durant to stay in Oklahoma City after next season, when Durant becomes a free agent.
Durant has reached out to NBA players who played for Donovan at Florida. Durant came away duly impressed with Donovan.
Though Donovan has no NBA experience, Presti was impressed with Donovan, who utilizes the same, meticulous methods as coach that Presti uses as general manager. The Thunder also have two former Donovan assistants on the Thunder bench, and there is a familiarity between Presti and Donovan. Kevin Ollie was thought to be in the running, but Ollie pulled out of the running earlier last week.
Donovan and his Gators suffered through a 16-17 season which saw Florida miss the postseason for only the second time in the 19 years Donovan has coached there. Many reliable sources are saying Donovan was growing weary of the yearly recruiting grind, making the NBA look more attractive.
Donovan earlier agreed to a one-year extension to stay with Florida through the 2020 season. There was, however, a $500,000 buyout for Donovan if an NBA opportunity ever arose.
Though monetary terms were not disclosed, the contract Donovan signed was for five years.