Billy Donovan Takes OKC Thunder Job | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / June 18.
  • Billy Donovan Takes OKC Thunder Job

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    donovan_billyBilly Donovan is the new head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Donovan, a Long Island native, becomes the third head coach in Thunder history after spending the past 19 years at the University of Florida where he led the Gators to two National Championships and four trips to the Final Four while amassing a record of 467-186 (.715).

    “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,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said in a statement.

    During his tenure at Florida, Donovan led the program to 16 straight 20-win seasons, three 30-win seasons, 17 consecutive trips to the postseason and six SEC Championships. Under Donovan, Florida has advanced to the Elite Eight in six of the past 10 seasons.

    After winning back-to-back national championships (2006 and 2007), Donovan led Florida to 18 straight postseason wins, the longest run for any program since John Wooden led UCLA to 28 straight postseason wins. This past season, Donovan became the second youngest coach in NCAA history (Bob Knight) to claim 500 career wins.

    “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,” Donovan said. “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.”

    Donovan inherits a team that failed to make the playoffs under former coach Scott Brooks but features two superstars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant becomes a free agent in 2016.

    Donovan agreed to become the Orlando Magic head coach in 2007, only to reverse course and go back to Florida following back-to-back NCAA championships with the Gators.

    Donovan, who makes more than $4 million annually, has a $500,000 buyout if he goes to the NBA, an ESPN report said.

    Florida lost guard Michael Frazier and forward Chris Walker to the NBA Draft pool, while guard Eli Carter will transfer.

    Among the potential names to replace Donovan at Florida are assistants Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey, Xavier coach Chris Mack and Dayton coach Archie Miller.

    Donovan was also slated to coach the USA Basketball U19 team in the World Championship this summer in Greece. Now Arizona’s Sean Miller, Texas’ Shaka Smart or Providence’s Ed Cooley could take over, sources told Miller and Cooley are currently listed as Donovan’s assistants for the team, while Smart also has USA Basketball experience.

    That team could feature Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky), Chase Jeter and Luke Kennard (Duke), Allonzo Trier (Arizona), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Diamond Stone (Maryland), Ivan Rabb (Cal), Caleb Swanigan (Michigan State) and Jaylen Brown (uncommitted).


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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