It’s the end of an era in Gainsville as longtime Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has signed a five-year contract to coach the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports confirmed the deal and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman confirmed that Donovan was indeed leaving Florida.
Donovan had coached at Florida since 1996 and had the Gators back in the Final Four by his fourth season, when the team lost to the Michigan State Spartans in the 2000 NCAA Tournament Championship Game. He leaves Gainsville with a 467-186 record (202-109 SEC), four trips to the Final Four, two championships and NCAA tournament berths in all but five of his seasons.
He now will be tasked with taking over a talented Oklahoma City team that went 45-37 under former coach Scott Brooks last season and still missed the playoffs. This can be attributed to star players Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka all missing significant time with various injuries.
It is not Donovan’s first dance with the NBA, as he once agreed to coach the Orlando Magic back in 2007 before having second thoughts and returning to Florida. He’ll be under the microscope immediately in Oklahoma City, as the team made the playoffs in all but two of seven seasons under Brooks and will look to get back to its winning ways in Durant’s contract year. Should he and Donovan clash, it could leave to him opting to play elsewhere once he hits free agency. Thus, the first year with the Thunder could truly be make or break for Donovan.
Either way, it’s a solid hire for the NBA and Thunder fans should be excited for next season.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports