Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan is preparing to sign a multi-year contract to leave the college ranks for the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder set to name him the replacement for Scott Brooks, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported late Wednesday and Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed Thursday afternoon.
According to Stein, who is citing sources, Donovan will be announced as the Thunder’s new coach on Thursday or Friday and “only an unforeseen collapse at this stage would prevent the sides from finazling a deal after two days of advanced negotiations.”
Sources close to the Florida basketball program told OnlyGators.com Wednesday afternoon that the expectation was that Donovan would leave the team, though officials were holding out hope that he would decide to remain with the Gators.
Stein and ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz noted Wednesday that while “Donovan’s family is willing to move to Oklahoma,” the coach was still weighing the opportunity and planned to make a decision within 48 hours.
Wojnarowski previously reported that Donovan’s contract will average approximately $6 million per season. Donovan, who was given a raise to $4 million annually with Florida, would still earn $1.67 million more per season after factoring in Oklahoma’s state income tax of 5.5 percent.
Furthermore, Wojnarowski reported earlier Wednesday that Thunder star forward Kevin Durant has “reached out” to multiple former Gators players under Donovan in order to learn more about his future coach. Durant has reportedly “become generally positive about the potential hiring,” while Donovan was attempting to speak with Durant, Russell Westbrook and other key Oklahoma City players before making the move.
Minutes after Oklahoma City fired Brooks, Donovan was listed by multiple reporters as Presti’s top choice to fill the role.
At the time and lasting through the weekend, Donovan was on the road recruiting, only stopping in Gainesville, Florida, for a short break between visiting individual prospects and attending 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.
It has long been known that the Thunder job was 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.
While talks are reportedly ongoing, Donovan is still coach of the Gators at this time. He has dealt with three offseason defections, ensured every signed first-year player has a scholarship and filled out his staff with longtime assistant Anthony Grant, who would likely join Donovan in Oklahoma City.
Florida now must wait for official word on whether its coach will leave and shake the foundation of one of the top two programs in the SEC.