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 SNY.tv. “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.”
Here's thing with Donovan and Ollie: If OKC talks to one of the coaches first, expect the other to pull out of consideration — and fast.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) April 22, 2015
FWIW: Sources: ADs at UConn/UF no indication/or sign Ollie or Donovan leaving for OKC. But until OKC makes hire, they are top candidates.
— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) April 22, 2015