Billy Donovan to Oklahoma City rumors flare up after Thunder fires coach Scott Brooks

By Adam Silverstein
April 22, 2015

Updated Thursday at 8:25 a.m.

The Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday, and Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has already been tabbed as a “serious candidate” and the potential favorite to replace him.

Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported Brooks’ dismissal, cited in the story that “Donovan is expected to become a serious candidate” to replace Brooks, the second time he mentioned Donovan’s name with the Oklahoma City job. ESPN‘s Marc Stein has called Donovan the “natural favorite” to replace Brooks, while the network’s Jeff Goodman immediately referred to the fact that Thunder general manager Sam Presti hired two front office members off Donovan’s staff just one year ago.

It has long been known that the Thunder job is one of a handful of especially interesting NBA opportunities for Donovan, who would only leave the Gators – and a close friend and trusted partner in athletic director Jeremy Foley – for a position where he felt an equal level of trust with management.

Donovan is not as close with Presti as he is with Foley, certainly, but a relationship has been forged between the men. The Thunder have already hired two former Gators staffers and have long shown their respect for Donovan and his coaching methods.

The Oklahoma City job is not without its issues, however. Superstar forward Kevin Durant is dealing with a serious foot injury that could affect his status in 2015-16, a season in which he is also a free agent and is believed to be considering leaving the franchise. All-Star guard Russell Westbrook has one additional season remaining on his contract but would potentially be a conflicting personality with that of Donovan. Both players, along with most of the Thunder organization, were close with Brooks.

Donovan has been out on the road recruiting after the Gators added the final two players to their four-member 2015 recruiting class. He also hired former Florida assistant and recent Alabama head coach Anthony Grant back to his staff earlier this month after assistant Matt McCall left to take the top job at Chattanooga. Of course, Donovan could take Grant and long-time assistant John Pelphrey with him to the NBA should he choose to move on.

ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst, citing sources, reports that Donovan “recently” did “background research on Kevin Durant,” though that “doesn’t mean he’s made a decision.”

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie, a former teammate of Durant and Westbrook who is also rumored to be a candidate for the OKC opening, said Wednesday he has no plans to leave the Huskies. However, Wojnarowski reports that Ollie has “significant interest” in the job and is a “top choice” for Presti.

Ollie is seen as Oklahoma City’s “No. 1 target” for the job, according to a source that spoke with “There’s no formal offer on the table, but he’s first in line,” the source said. “Oklahoma City is fully committed to trying to get him to commit.”


  1. SaraGator says:

    F&$#! Please don’t go, Billy. Pleeeeease….

  2. g8ter27 says:

    This sucks, both for the Gators and Thunder. The Gators will lose obviously their best coach of any sport while the Thunder have basically assured themselves of losing Durrant and maybe Westbrook after their contracts run out.

  3. 1974Gator says:

    As the saying goes ” If you want their commitment (or love) and you really care for (Or love) them, set them free”. I only want him to stay if he’s all in.

  4. Dan says:

    Billy leaving is 1 thing — I don’t blame him for taking such a great opportunity.

    The timing is just awful. Not even sure who we’d go after as a replacement.

  5. scroud says:

    Why don’t they go after Calipari, how come I just keep hearing Donovan wants to go to the NBA? It would be a mistake imho. This team has a one year window and then will be rebuilding. I hope Ollie gets it. I can’t bear the thought of losing Mr. Donovan.

  6. Michael Jones says:

    Our best players are still leaving the state. That was painfully evident while watching the NCAA tourney and it has been going on for a lllooooooooooong time. Would love for either Billy or his replacement to change that.

  7. Ken (CA) says:

    I am happy that Billy isn’t their top candidate. One day he may go unless the urge gets less as he gets older like it did for Coach K realizing he was happy where he was and leaving an incredible legacy. I hope Billy mellows as well and realizes he doesn’t have to achieve greatness in the NBA to be considered one of the greatest coaches of all time. John Wooden may be considered the greatest coach of all time, and NBA had nothing to do with it. If he goes I will root for him, but I really want to see him in GVille for another 20-30 yrs

  8. SW FL Joe says:

    With Ollie pulling his name from consideration, it looks like OKC has their man.