Reports: Oklahoma City Thunder set to sign Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan, announcement soon

By Adam Silverstein
April 29, 2015

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,’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 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‘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.

Aside from wishing two of his departed players in short written statements released by the team over the last few days, Donovan has remained silent as speculation surrounding him leaving college for the NBA grows stronger by the day.

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.


  1. KB says:

    If it comes to pass then congrats coach Donovan and good luck at the next level. Thanks for all you have done for the Gators Basketball program and nothing but the best wishes for you. Adam…any thoughts on who might replace Billy? It sure would have been nice if that Texas job would not have opened up and there was still that Shaka Smart card to draw from.

    • Yes. I will have a complete candidate list as always once it is actually official.

      • Tim says:

        A couple of big names that may be on that list?

        Tony Bennett of Virginia: Humble guy, one of the hottest coaches in America right now in one of the toughest conferences, and Virginia is always going to be overshadowed by 3 or 4 other schools in the ACC. Good recruiter, even better personality, a cultural fit, and fits in our current salary structure. Got to wonder if he’s an NBA guy in the next couple years though.
        Jay Wright of Villanova: maybe we can catch him feeling a little underappreciated after a couple of great seasons and poor tourney performances. Good recruiting fit.
        Mark Few of Gonzaga: time for a chance to take it to the next level. Good personality fit, curious to see if he can recruit the type of athlete we see play here.
        Tommy Amaker? Or is that Coach K’s next replacement?

        It’s really a struggle to think of who can replace Billy culturally, on the recruiting trail, and stylistically. But I really like Bennett if he’s not a future NBA guy after a few more years in Virginia. I’m sure there are a ton of other guys…assistants even that are lurking. However, if the football program has shown us anything, once you get a program to a certain level, I’m not sure you turn it over to an assistant coach. I’s my personal opinion that we need to have an experienced head coach come in.

  2. SaraGator says:

    Sigh. I’m glad I went to see his 500th win.

    Still hoping he has a change of heart.

  3. Michael Jones says:

    The NBA is a tough gig. It chews coaches up and spits them out. Very few have been able to have sustained success.

    That said, I wish Coach Donovan all the success in the world. I will never forget all that he has done for this program. He will definitely go down as one of our greatest Gator coaches.

  4. ELI ANDERSON says:

    I personally believe the tough season that he and the gators endured has a lot to do with his willingness to give the NBA a second chance (Although the first was just days). I think the other was that coach Mac’s new indoor practice facility and other football improvements expected in conjunction with the delay of improvements to the o’dome. I wish Billy the best of luck!