Billy Donovan says goodbye, thanks Florida Gators fans in heartfelt newspaper ad

Former Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan has not spoken much since leaving the program for the NBA‘s Oklahoma City Thunder, but on Sunday, Donovan and the rest of his family thanked the program he called home for 19 seasons with a full-page advertisement in The Gainesville Sun.

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Florida Gators react on Twitter to Billy Donovan leaving to coach Oklahoma City Thunder

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan has decided to leave the college ranks and enter the NBA as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. When the news came down on Thursday, social media blew up with well wishes and thoughts from many of his former players and others connected with the Florida basketball program.

Press conference live stream, starting at 10:30 a.m.

OnlyGators.com has gathered the social media reaction – from Gators past, present and future – to Donovan’s departure and rolled it all together.

This post will be continuously updated as the opinions roll in.

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Billy Donovan leaves Florida Gators to become new coach of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

Billy Donovan has accepted the vacant head coaching position with the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending his 19-year stint with the Florida Gators. A source close to the Florida coach told OnlyGators.com on Thursday afternoon that Donovan and Oklahoma City have agreed to terms on a five-year contract with each program announcing the deal a few hours later.

Donovan, who amassed a 467-186 (202-109 SEC) record with the Gators and won 502 games during his 21-year college coaching career after spending two seasons at Marshall, will enter the NBA ranks as a coach for the first time in his career at a salary of nearly $6 million per season.

“I want to thank Jeremy Foley, the players, coaches and staff I’ve had the chance to work with during my time at Florida,” Donovan said in a school release. “The administrative support and stability has been unbelievable here, and it is an incredibly difficult decision to leave that. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation.”

Donovan continued discussing his shift to the NBA in an Oklahoma City release.

“The Thunder represents so many of the values that I embrace as a head coach; the commitment to the team above oneself, the dedicated pursuit of excellence, the commitment to organizational culture, the identity they have established and the fact that the Thunder and the community are so intricately woven into the fabric of one another. To have the ability to work with such a talented and high character group of players is also rare, and I am excited to forge ahead creating those relationships,” he said.

“It is of course bittersweet as the University of Florida will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my family’s. I’ve had the good fortune of working with the best athletic director in the country in Jeremy Foley over the last 19 years, and I’ll be forever grateful and thankful for the opportunity and his friendship. Countless players, students, and other people in the administration were responsible for our success and for the meaningful connection we had with the Gainesville community.

“I have a deep appreciation for what the University of Florida will always mean to me and I’ll forever be a Gator.”

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan leaves Florida Gators to become new coach of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

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

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.”

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Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan talking contract with Oklahoma City, weighing options

Updated at 4:25 p.m.

Long reported to be the top choice of Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti to replace the ousted Scott Brooks, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan is engaged in deep discussions with the franchise about its open position and is “leaning strongly toward taking the job,” according to ESPN.com‘s Marc Stein and Andy Katz.

Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday afternoon that the two sides “have started discussing the framework of a contract” and “there’s confidence on both sides that a deal can be reached” despite one not yet being in place as of press time.

Sources close to the Florida basketball program told OnlyGators.com earlier Wednesday afternoon that the expectation is that Donovan will leave the team, though officials are holding out hope that he remains with the Gators.

Stein and Katz note that while “Donovan’s family is willing to move to Oklahoma … he is weighing both sides” of the decision with a resolution expected within the next 48 hours.

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Florida coach Billy Donovan remains silent as Oklahoma City Thunder speculation grows

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.

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

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.

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

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Report: Billy Donovan a ‘serious candidate’ to coach Oklahoma City Thunder

Should the Oklahoma City Thunder decide to move on from head coach Scott Brooks, whose partnership with the team is currently being “evaluated” by executives, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan “could emerge as a serious candidate” to be his replacement, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Brooks has gone 545-338 in seven years with the organization, finishing first in the Northwest Division in four straight seasons and making the playoffs in five consecutive campaigns. But Oklahoma City has yet to win an NBA title under Brooks and the team is facing some tough decisions in 2015-16 with injured superstar Kevin Durant’s health and contract situation both major concerns for the franchise.

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