The Oklahoma City Thunder have reached out to Florida Gators head men's basketball coach Billy Donovan about their vacant coaching job, per ESPN.
Could Billy Donovan possibly be the next head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Don't Miss: The Best HDR TVs
League sources told ESPN's Marc Stein on Wednesday Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Donovan have begun discussing the team's vacant head coaching position. He is the first known candidate to be in the running for the job.
Stein says Donovan "is widely regarded as the clear favorite" to succeed former Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks. As of now, it still isn't clear how many candidates the team will consider, although ESPN did mention San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina as possibly one of them.
Another league source confirmed the Thunder's interest in Donovan to USA TODAY's Jeff Zilgitt on April 29.
Stein cites an earlier ESPN report saying NBA executives feel Donovan is finally ready to make the leap to the pro ranks. Presti also happens to have a very close friendship with Donovan. As a matter of fact, he's hired two of Donovan's staff members with the Gators within the past 12 months -- data analyst Oliver Winterbone and Oklahoma City Blue head coach Mark Daigneault.
The Oklahoma City Blue is the Thunder's NBA D-League affiliate.
Stein points out Donovan's biggest obstacle in getting the Thunder head coaching job is leaving the comforts of Gainesville, Fla., where he and his family have been living for the past two decades. He even spurned interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves a year ago in order to remain with the Gators.
Presti holds Donovan in high regard despite his lack of NBA head coaching experience "because of their similarly meticulous approaches to the job," per Stein.
Adding to that is their strong friendship and the employment of two former Florida Gators staff members, two factors which boost Donovan's candidacy now that Connecticut Huskies head men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie withdrew from consideration last week, per ESPN.
Another thing going for the Thunder is the Gators' recent performance -- they went just 16-17 last season and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in Donovan's 19-year tenure. Stein's sources tell him Donovan "has grown weary of the college recruiting grind," a factor which may affect his ambition to jump to the pro ranks.
According to ESPN, Donovan recently inked a one-year extension with the Gators which makes his contract run through 2020. The deal has a $500,000 buyout, an amount which should not impede his transfer to the NBA, should it happen.
Louisville Cardinals head men's basketball coach Rick Pitino, who Stein says is one of Donovan's "most trusted confidantes," told ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike recently that Donovan "has an urge to coach in the NBA -- a strong desire to coach in the NBA -- and would like to try it, very similar to Brad Stevens, who is doing a wonderful job with the (Boston) Celtics."
Donovan came very close to coaching in the NBA when he signed a contract with the Orlando Magic in 2007. However, he reneged and went back to the Gators. The Magic asked him to sign a noncompete cause which disallows him from coaching in the NBA through the 2012-13 season in exchange for his release, per ESPN.
The Thunder dismissed Brooks, the 2009-10 NBA Coach of the Year, on April 22 after seven years as their head coach. Oklahoma City had a 45-37 record (.549) win-loss record in his last season.
However, the Thunder, who were without 2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin Durant for 55 games last season, missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Donovan has a 502-206 (.709) win-loss record in an NCAA men's basketball head coaching career that spans 21 years with the Marshall Thundering Herd and Florida Gators, per Sports-Reference.com.
He led the Gators to consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007.
Make sure to log on to I4U News for the latest trends and developments for the geek mind.