Billy Donovan, Thunder Part Ways

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, whose contract with Oklahoma City expired after his team was eliminated in the playoffs this season, will not be returning to the club for the 2020/21 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The team issued a press release confirming that the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways.

After Donovan and his representatives could not come to terms on a new deal with the Thunder, both sides opted to move on. As ESPN’s Royce Young tweets, the break-up is more about the two sides not aligning on a long-term fit than any strong desire to make a change.

“We had planned to sit down at the end of the season and discuss the best way to move forward for both of us,” general manager Sam Presti said in a statement on Donovan. “After those discussions, it became apparent that we couldn’t provide him the information on the future direction of the team over the next several seasons to give him the level of clarity that he understandably desires at this stage of his career. Therefore, we close this chapter and reflect fondly on all that he has given to the team, organization and community.”

The fact that the club’s front office, led by Presti, anticipates an eventual rebuild helped put a damper on contract talks, Wojnarowski tweets. The Oklahoma City roster features several veterans that the team could soon be looking to move for future assets, especially with league revenues suffering as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Woj notes (Twitter link).

When the Thunder traded All-Stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the summer of 2019, expectations for the team were lower than they had been at any point in Donovan’s tenure with the club, and there was a league-wide belief that an OKC rebuild was imminent.

However, Donovan and new additions Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to a 44-28 record in 2019/20, good for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. The team eventually lost Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs to former Thunder MVP Westbrook and the Rockets.

Donovan sported a 243-157 (.608) record in his five seasons as Thunder head coach. The team made the postseason in each of those five years, though it only advanced beyond the first round once during that time, in 2016, prior to Kevin Durant‘s departure.

Donovan’s exit from Oklahoma City immediately makes him one of the more intriguing free agents on the head coaching market.

The Bulls, in the midst of finishing a first round of interviews with prospective candidates, are anticipated to be interested in Donovan’s services as a potential new head coach, according to Woj (Twitter link). The Sixers are also expected to pursue Donovan, per Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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37 thoughts on “Billy Donovan, Thunder Part Ways

    • On Who’s part? Donovan for not staying despite a rebuild or the Thunder for not running it back with the same team?

    • jump shot

      No way would Simmons/Embiid let him coach them.
      Taylor-made for the Pacers job if he doesn’t go back to the college game.

          • Jumpshot… I haven’t really heard Mike Brown’s name come up as a candidate much for these openings. Maybe here and there the Knicks and maybe Brooklyn but not much at all. I don’t know why. Looks like he stays with the Warriors another year? Have you heard anything?

            • jump shot

              We didn’t hear Nash’s name… at all.
              Ur right, his name isn’t tossed out with every job. But, I look for him to be a hc in the next few weeks – if not sooner.

      • azcrook

        Who really cares what Steven A has to say……just a mechanical talking head for the CNN of sports…..

    • arthur blank_for owner

      as you guys run it back with Tom freakin Thibodeau smh! Look up retreads and his face pops up!

  1. afsooner02

    I’m kinda shocked honestly….but loaded team and picks for whoever wants the reigns.

  2. Sillivan

    I expected this to happen

    Did you remember I proposed the Knicks to hire Donovan,my twin brother

  3. phillyballers

    Interesting. Guess they don’t care to expand on their outperforming season.

      • implant

        Rockets far from his best option. Team has no cap space each of the next two years and Harden and Westbrook account for 87m between them. And its clear they need help if they want to be serious title contendors

        • harden-westbrook-mvps

          So you think that Billy Donovan would rather coach the Bulls, Pacers, Pelicans, or Sixers instead of a team with two MVP’s and has been deep in the playoffs almost every year recently?

          • implant

            Recently is only this year because this years Rocket team (and the next two) are quite different than last years team with Paul. Westbrook and Harden are fun to watch but this team is not built for the playoffs. And that will be very hard to change due to limited resources. I think the team Donovan left has a better future. Without looking to deep I’d also say NOLA has a better future as well.

          • You are delusional. Westbrook didn’t play like an MVP; he’s helping drive the last few nails into the Houston coffin.

            Harden and Westbrook $76m against the cap. Ouch.
            Rockets are going nowhere.

  4. stretch123

    Would be the right choice for the Bulls job. I think he’d shine in NOLA as well.

  5. Always thought he was overrated in the pros. Still glad to see him have some non Durant/ Westbrook success. It’ll be interesting to see how well he does at his next destination

  6. It’s about the direction of the team. They had a surprisingly good year, but the roster is still in transition and a few steps back from here is still likely best path forward. From Presti’s standpoint, that certainly has to be an option. If that’s how they go, Donovan isn’t the right fit from either his or the team’s standpoint.

  7. hoosierhysteria

    He went to OKC for $$$ from college. He is big on relationships…which GM does he want to work for???

  8. Ialreadyhadsteveijustupdatedmypicbeenheresince08gimmemynameback

    Seems like he’s looking for a similar situation as the one he got coming into the league. Inherit an established roster who are at least close to contender status. The first go around (with Durant Westbrook Ibaka) fizzled without a clear look at Donavan coaching a team with his blue print on the roster (both in terms of coaching/schemes as well as input on player selection/acquisition), so I guess he’s betting on himself that he’s improved enough to right the ship this go around. Lackluster was the term to describe the thunders first 3 seasons/playoffs under donovan, I imagine that donavan is self aware enough to understand this, so you’d have to think he is hedging his bets based off this years overachievements and accolades. Which is weird given that the thunder left much the same taste in my mouth as they did prior years. Much more likeable team, certainly an improvement in team chemistry and develop, but the 1st round exit was disappointing, they should beat the rockets

    • x%sure

      Maybe Presti did not like that he didn’t, but did not want to say that. If he deals CPaul, that will mean he was serious about a rebuild. I just want to see Shai in charge now.

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