According to two separate reports, the Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in contract negotiations with Florida Gators coach and two-time NCAA champion Billy Donovan.
Sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that Thunder GM Sam Presti has been in Gainesville the past two days meeting with Donovan to discuss a deal, although the two have yet to finalize anything.
Marc Stein of ESPN also reported today that Donovan is seriously considering taking the job:
“One source close to the situation went so far as to tell ESPN.com that ‘the job is Donovan’s to lose’ at this point. Another source said Wednesday that the rising expectation in Gainesville is that Donovan ‘is as good as gone.'”
Donovan quickly emerged as a front-running candidate to replace Scott Brooks, who was fired not long after the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs, in a move that many around the league saw as overdue. The Thunder haven’t reached the NBA Finals since 2012, where they lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat 4-1. Since then, they’ve been plagued by injuries to each of their star players that have derailed their title hopes at every turn.
Most recently, it was 2014 MVP Kevin Durant who was sidelined the majority of this season with a foot injury, which ultimately caused the Thunder to miss the postseason for the first time since 2009. A fortunate byproduct of Durant’s absence, though, was a string of incomprehensible performances from scoring champ and basketball cyborg Russell Westbrook.
As the league’s coaching carousal keeps spinning at its usual nauseating pace, Donovan isn’t the only college coach to be recruited by an NBA team recently. John Calipari’s name gets floated around every offseason, and Huskies coach Kevin Ollie drew significant interest from the Los Angeles Lakers last summer before ultimately deciding to return to UConn on a five-year contract. OKC has also expressed interest in Ollie as a potential replacement for Brooks. According to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, Presti and other team officials have made multiple trips to both UConn and Florida this season.
Efforts to lure Ollie away from Connecticut have all fallen short up to this point, and he officially withdrew his name from consideration for the OKC job last week. Donovan, on the other hand, has said publicly he’d take the Thunder job if offered to him.
Donovan has never coached in the NBA. In 2007, however, the 49 year-old accepted an offer to coach the Orlando Magic yet ultimately reneged on it before the season started – even after he’d already signed a contract and held an introductory press conference. Based on past history, the Thunder will have to cross their fingers that if he does accept the job he won’t get cold feet again this time around.