OKLAHOMA CITY — Billy Donovan has been voted the Co-Coach of the Year along with Milwaukee Bucks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer by the National Basketball Coaches Association. This was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Donovan and Budenholzer were voted over Toronto Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse. The Raptors are 47-18 and hold the 2 seed behind Milwaukee. This was made all the more impressive following the departure of 2019-20 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in the offseason.
“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by the Coaches,” Donovan said in a statement released by the NBCA. “They are great people who I admire and respect. Receiving an award alongside such a terrific coach like [Budenholzer] makes it even more special.”
All 30 NBA coaches vote on the award. Nurse was one vote away from creating a three-way tie for first place. Budenholzer’s Bucks have the best record in the NBA and hold the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Donovan’s coaching job has been universally praised across the board. During the offseason, OKC traded away Paul George, who finished third in MVP voting the season before, and franchise foundational star Russell Westbrook. The trades brought in talented players and a plethora of draft picks, but very little, if any, expectations.
ESPN infamously gave OKC a 0.2 percentage chance to make the playoffs. The prevailing thought was that Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari would be traded in-season to make way for the inevitable tank job for the future.
What followed was a team who started 8-12 and went on to have one of the best records in the NBA afterwards. Paul and Gallinari stayed and welcomed their roles as veteran leaders on a young team. The Thunder are now locked into the playoffs regardless of what happens during the seeding games in Orlando.
“Individual awards have always been a reflection of good team dynamics,” Donovan said. “I’m proud of the collective work that our players, coaching staff and the entire organization has put in this season.”
Donovan, who is in the final year of his five-year contract he signed in 2015, has been able to help develop young talent like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Lu Dort, as well as form a strong link of communication with his floor general Paul.
“If I could point a few things out about the job that [Billy Donovan] has done, I think he’s done an excellent job,” Sam Presti said on July 22. “I’m not usually one for individual awards, but I really think that he needs to be heavily considered to be Coach of the Year.
Presti and Donovan have yet to sit down and talk about future plans. That will come in the offseason. The ball seems to be in Donovan’s court if he will remain the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Presti wants him, and now Donovan has the hardware to be seen as one of the top coaches in the league by his peers.
Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12. Brady is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma class of 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports