When the big news dropped on Tuesday that Oklahoma City fired Brooks, the rumors about Billy Donovan have only heated up. Multiple outlets have linked Donovan as a serious candidate to replace Brooks. Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, who finished his playing career with the Thunder from 2009-10, is also being listed as a possible candidate.
It’s another offseason with rumors about Donovan’s future circulating. There were reports last offseason of NBA teams having conversations with Donovan, but none of the NBA teams were much of a threat to pluck the coach out of Gainesville before his 19th season as the coach at Florida.
The Thunder could be different.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti and Donovan have known each other for a while, and there are connections within the organization. The Thunder hired Mark Daigneault, who previously served as the assistant to the head coach at Florida, to be the head coach of their D-League team. The Thunder also hired Oliver Winterbone as basketball information analyst after he served as the video coordinator at Florida for four seasons.
Brooks leaves behind many intriguing pieces on the Oklahoma City roster that could entice Donovan, including 2013-14 NBA MVP and six-time All-Star Kevin Durant. Four-time All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook had the best year of his career in 2014-15. There’s enough talent on the team for the Thunder to be among the elite in the Western Conference again next season, providing Donovan more job security than trying to take on one of the league’s bottom feeders.
The only questions are about the future. Durant is only under contract for one more season and could leave in free agency after that.
These rumors continue to pop up because Donovan hasn’t been afraid to talk about his NBA interest in the past. Whenever asked about it, the Florida coach has admitted that the NBA intrigues him. The thought of focusing only on the basketball side of coaching has always given the NBA an appeal to Donovan, explaining his short stint as the Orlando Magic head coach.
This is the job opening that has made a lot of sense for Donovan because of those reasons.
But there’s also a lot that could be lining up for Donovan to stay at Florida. Last week, Anthony Grant’s return to the Florida coaching staff was officially announced. The former Alabama coach is back in Gainesville after previously spending 10 years as an assistant at Florida under Donovan.
Dorian Finney-Smith also announced that he would return to Florida for his senior season after most expected him to leave early. Would he have made that decision without assurance that Donovan, his mentor, was coming back?
There’s a lot that lines up for Donovan to at least listen if Presti wants to talk about the opening. It would be hard for any coach to turn down the opportunity to coach two of the best players in the NBA.