Thunder and Donovan Part Ways, with Fondness
Being an NBA head coach is a challenging and complex job. It rarely results in longevity in one city or for one team. The game of basketball changes constantly and along with it comes personnel movement.
In the NBA, the typical coaching tenure is somewhere between two and three years. Since late November of 2008, however, over a span of nearly 12 years, the Thunder has only had two head coaches, a remarkable span of continuity.
After the organization and Billy Donovan announced a mutual parting of ways on Tuesday, the Thunder will now be looking for its next head coach for the start of the next campaign.
General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti sat down with Donovan on Tuesday, reminiscing about past seasons and discussing both Donovan and the Thunder’s future. Ultimately, they decided together that Donovan would move on from the team.
“(Donovan) did a great job for us, and we just have the utmost respect for him,” said Presti. “The things that he did here will be remembered for a very long time and I think that he’ll be regarded as somebody that really helped the organization move forward. I think he’s really helped the legacy of the organization as we moved into the back end of our first decade.”
Donovan and his predecessor, Scott Brooks, leave large shoes to fill in terms of the type of human being that has represented the Thunder over the past dozen years. They both approached their daily jobs, roles in the Oklahoma City community and forward-facing responsibilities with integrity and dignity, and that’s what the team will be looking for in its next leader as well.
“The number one thing is always having a passion for Oklahoma City and having a passion for the Thunder and the organization,” Presti continued, addressing his upcoming search for the Thunder’s next coach. “Hopefully we can find someone else that can carry on the work those guys did.”
Brooks took over a 1-12 team in November 2008 and coached through 2015, helping the upstart club lift off from 23 wins in that 2008-09 season to an NBA Finals berth in 2012, four Northwest Division titles and five playoff berths in seven years.
Then came Donovan, who was hired on April 30, 2015 after serving the previous 19 years at the University of Florida. During his five seasons with the team, Donovan led the Thunder to a 243-157 record (.608), with playoff appearances in each season. OKC went 18-23 (.439) in the postseason under Donovan.
“I have a great affinity for both those guys and I learned a lot from both of them, quite frankly,” Presti said of Brooks and Donovan. “I hold those guys in high regard and I think the next person, whoever that person is, will share some of the qualities of each of them.”
Donovan is held in high regard with the Thunder. At times though in the lifecycle of an NBA team, and most certainly for an NBA head coach, moving on is more of a when-not-if proposition.
While the Thunder has had more stability than most organizations, it is even more inevitable than ever before that change will come. As it does with player movement, salary cap guidelines, financial decisions and on-court adjustments, the Thunder takes everything in stride with the same diligent and steady approach as it has from back in 2008 through to the present.
“The NBA has become a league of change, and it happens rapidly,” said Presti. “You have to understand that change is additive. Instead of resisting it, I think you have to embrace it. That's a big part of professional sports today.”
“Billy Donovan will be remembered fondly for his personal integrity and professionalism during his time as our head coach. We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) September 9, 2020
-Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett.