Aside from wishing Chris Walker well in a short written statement released by the team on Friday, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has remained silent as speculation surrounding him leaving college for the NBA grows stronger by the day.
Minutes after the Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks, Donovan was listed by multiple reporters as general manager Sam Presti’s top choice to fill the role.
At the time, Donovan was on the road recruiting, which he continued doing until he returned to Gainesville, Florida, on Friday. The break was short-lived, however, as Donovan hopped back on the school’s private jet that evening to travel to Lexington, Kentucky, and attend an AAU basketball showcase featuring some of the top prospects in the nation.
While all this was going on, the drum beat got louder for Donovan to head to OKC.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who earlier in the week reported that Donovan had been doing research into Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant, joined the network’s “Pardon the Interruption” program to discuss the chances that Donovan lands in Oklahoma City.
“This is the job Billy Donovan’s been waiting for,” said Windhorst, “and I think he’s the guy the Thunder want.”
A few hours later, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman – who has both college and NBA connections – wrote on Twitter that “almost everyone I have spoken to close to Billy Donovan believes he will take the OKC job — if/when it’s offered.” Goodman, however, also gave himself an out. “Also understand this could come down to [a] family decision. Does [his] wife want to go to OKC, [his] son is [a high school] senior, [he] has [a] younger daughter.”
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. 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.
For now, though, Donovan remains coach of the Gators. He has dealt with offseason defections, ensured every signed first-year player has a scholarship and filled out his staff with longtime assistant Anthony Grant.
Florida just hopes that Donovan’s silence is golden.