The Oklahoma City Thunder have formally started discussions with Billy Donovan regarding their vacant coaching job, according to speculation.
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According to ESPN, Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti have opened up talks about the position as the franchise look to appoint a successor to Scott Brooks.
Brooks was fired at the end of the regular season after failing to guide the Thunder to the playoffs, although the decision wasn’t solely based on this year as it took his inability to get the team to a title in his seven years in charge into consideration too.
Injuries undoubtedly conspired against him again this year with reigning league MVP Kevin Durant sidelined for a significant part of the campaign, but OKC made their decision to move in a different direction and that is seemingly leading them towards Donovan.
Donovan has long been on the radar for NBA teams as he continues his career as a college coach, and it is understood that moving his family from Florida over to Oklahoma City could be one of the biggest obstacles to getting a deal done.
Presti has a close relationship with the Gators coach after previously employing some of his staff to join the Thunder, and that essentially is making him a favourite for the role as they share similar characteristics in their approach to the game.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie withdrew himself from the race last week and although it is believed that San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina is also on the shortlist, Donovan currently tops it and will continue to be their first choice to coach the team next year.
Donovan has a 467-186 record as Gators coach and won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. While he is contracted with the Gators until 2020, he has a buy-out clause of $500,000 if he is keen on an opportunity that arises in the NBA.
Naturally, this is a key appointment for OKC as an organisation, but they need to get it right in order to keep the players happy moving forward, particularly Durant who becomes a free agent next summer.