While Adrian Wojnarowski and Pat Forde of Yahoo reported last night the two sides were in contract talks, Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel appeared to signal his official signing this morning:
Woj confirmed that the deal is for five years:
An interesting subplot is the belief the Thunder were actually looking at other potential candidates — outside of Donovan — to replace Scott Brooks, who had a .620 winning percentage in seven seasons as head coach before he was fired last week. Connecticut’s coach, Kevin Ollie, was rumored to be in the running, and even had to put out a statement saying he would stay in Storrs.
But as ESPN’s Ethan Strauss notes, the Thunder had already started filling lower-level positions with Donovan’s staff before Brooks was even informed — in person by GM Sam Presti — he was being let go.
While some have said Sam Presti pulled the trigger on Brooks because the Thunder failed to make the playoffs in a season where all three of their stars — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka — missed significant time with injuries, Presti isn’t an impulsive GM.
It seems the Donovan courtship was a long time coming even though it was just announced today. The really peculiar part is that neither Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, or their agents were consulted on the decision before Donovan and Presti hashed out the five-year deal; although, as Woj and Forde wrote in their report last night, KD has reached out to multiple former Gators throughout the NBA to get an impression of the impending new hire:
Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant has reached out to multiple former University of Florida players in the NBA to gain insight into Donovan, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and has become generally positive about the potential hiring.
Donovan has had an interest in trying to speak to the Thunder’s key players, including Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, before accepting the job, but it was unclear if that would be facilitated for Donovan, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Throughout the Donovan process, Presti hasn’t conferred with his top players, nor their agents.
We’ll have more on the signing, including what it means for the Thunder in the season before Kevin Durant becomes a free agent. It’s unusual Presti wouldn’t at least hear Durant out since we’re only 14 odd months away from him becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s Sam Presti, Thunder owner Clay Bennett and Donovan on the official announcement, per the Thunder’s release:
“We are thrilled to welcome Billy and his family to the Oklahoma City Thunder organization. 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,” Presti said. “While we created a comprehensive analysis regarding the qualities we were looking for, it became quite evident that Billy was the ideal fit for the Thunder as we look to transition our team into the future. Billy has achieved an incredible level of success and experience within his 21 years as a head coach and has shown the unique ability to not only create but sustain an elite program. His emotional intelligence, commitment to the concept of team, and relentless approach to incremental improvement have allowed him to bring his players together and establish lasting relationships through competitive success. Billy’s core values and alignment with our culture and community, as well as his proven tactical abilities, make him an ideal addition to the Thunder organization.”
“We warmly welcome Billy and his family to Oklahoma City,” said Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder Chairman. “He is the perfect fit for our organization and for our community and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.”
“I am honored and humbled to be named the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. 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,” said Billy Donovan, Thunder Head Coach. “The Thunder represents so many of the values that I embrace as a head coach; the commitment to the team above oneself, the dedicated pursuit of excellence, the commitment to organizational culture, the identity they have established and the fact that the Thunder and the community are so intricately woven into the fabric of one another. To have the ability to work with such a talented and high character group of players is also rare, and I am excited to forge ahead creating those relationships. It is of course bittersweet as the University of Florida will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my family’s. I’ve had the good fortune of working with the best athletic director in the country in Jeremy Foley over the last 19 years, and I’ll be forever grateful and thankful for the opportunity and his friendship. Countless players, students, and other people in the administration were responsible for our success and for the meaningful connection we had with the Gainesville community. I have a deep appreciation for what the University of Florida will always mean to me and I’ll forever be a Gator.”