Billy D: I think the last time I was here it was probably 4 months ago. So uh, I’ve certainly experienced a lot. I’d say its been a very, very humbling 4 months. Just one, finally having my family moved here in the middle of August and my kids starting school. The community has been really remarkable in terms of helping myself, my wife, and my kids adjust. Kids have been really excited about school. Meeting a lot of different people, same thing with my wife. So very, very grateful for all the help that so many people lend in and reach out to helping us make this a smooth transition. Obviously, when I set up here, um, I hadn’t really been on the job. But then getting the chance to work with Sam (Presti), getting the chance to be in the building every single day, um, it is really an incredible organization with really some special and quality people who are very, very gifted. Everybody from Mr. Bennett to Sam (Presti) to the people of the building, the assistant coaches. Couldn’t have been any kinder, nicer and helpful. I’ve obviously spent a lot of time this summer traveling around and getting the chance to spend time with all the players and I‘ve been able to do that and connect with all of those guys at different points in time during the summer. And they’ve just been a great, great group of guys. Certainly with Kevin’s rehab, you know, he’s been around a lot more early, um, before he got cleared and was able to kind of leave OKC and go on his own. But its been great. I’m excited to get started and looking forward to tomorrow and start practice.
Media: Coach, first of all, in your time here what’s probably the best place you’ve gotten something to eat at? Second, are you surprised as how quickly Kevin has been able to progress from his surgery to able to get ready for the season?
Billy D: Well there’s been a lot of great places to eat. I don’t know if there’s one that’s been better than the other. I don’t want to offend anybody. But, uh, the food has been great and we’ve had a chance to eat at a few different places which has been great. Um, I give Kevin a lot of credit and I also give our medical team a lot of credit. Kevin was really, really diligent the entire summer. And when I first came here, he was on a wheeler. Um, getting around and couldn’t put any pressure on his foot. And he remained very, very committed all summer long to certainly rehab in his foot. But doing the best he could to stay in shape and condition, um, keep his weight down. And I think with him being back to where he is right now, he deserves a lot of credit as does the medical staff. Both of them working together and getting back to this point where he is cleared now to play.
Media: Coach, what do Monty Williams, Maurice Cheeks, and Anthony Grant bring?
Billy D: Well I’m really excited about our staff. Certainly, as coaches I think their resumes and track records speak for themselves. But they are just incredible people. Anthony, obviously, I’ve known for a long time working so close together. I think there’s a lot of people out there that are very, very competent and really good at what they do. But the quality of people of Monty, Anthony, and Mo (Cheeks) has been incredible. They’ve been very helpful to me. Um, I’m excited that those guys are on our staff. Um, I’m excited to work with them every single day. I think over the last several months with the amount of time we spent with each other, I feel like there really has been good staff chemistry, there’s been a great connection there. I think relationship wise, we all get along very, very well. Um, I think there is a high level of humility inside that room in terms of that we know that we can probably take things from each other and to make us better. Um, and that’s been really enjoyable.
Media: After 150 days on the job, are you glad to finally reach a point where it’s everyday basketball?
Billy D: Well, you know, I’ve had to do a lot of things in terms of you know me and the players getting acclimated with the people in the building. Um, but I’m excited because I still had a chance to do a lot of basketball stuff and meet with our staff you know during the course of every day for the most part. Our players are in town, the ones that are here and they’re going through workouts so we’re on the court with them, working with them. The last couple weeks we’ve had predominantly all the players in where they’ve been doing some skill work, uh, trying to get prepared. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and excited about the start of the season.
Media: Billy, you said its been humbling, your 4 months here. Explain that to us how and why do you feel like its been humbling for you.
Billy D: Well, I think when you’ve been in a place for 19 years and you’ve established so many different relationships and now you’re walking into a completely unknown city. Um, an unknown environment, no ties or connections to Oklahoma at all and um, talking to Sam (Presti) and Mr. Bennett during the process, um, before I was hired, they had talked a great deal about the people of Oklahoma and what great quality people they are. And I think a lot of times people can say very, very nice things about an area or place to live. But you really never know until you get there. And when I say humbled, humbled from the fact that people will go out of their way like they have to help my wife and our kids with schools. Um, to be able to help my kids get physicals for sports, not knowing where to turn. Um, helping us find a home. People helping us adjust, reaching out, I mean neighbors coming over to ask us if we need anything. I think those things are very, very humbling you know when you really don’t know anybody. And I would say this, people may recognize me but I would tell you its been equally as humbling for my wife and people here have been equally as gracious to her. And they don’t even know who she is. So to me, that’s been really, really great because…you know when you are here and you’re entrenched in your job, you’re entrenched in work every single day, and you’re going to work every day, and you’re in the facility every day, you kind of like the first 3 months for me or 2 and a half months was hotel, office, hotel, office, traveling. But now they’re in the community and we’re having to adjust and acclimate to Oklahoma City. And for them its been great. The people have been absolutely wonderful.
Media: Coach, a lot of injuries last year, 18 different starting lineups. When you studied the film over the last couple seasons, how indirectly was that beneficial that you saw so many different combinations on which might be dealing with?
Billy D: Well I think it was helpful cause you mentioned injuries and trades, um, that had transpired during the season. So you’ve seen some lineups you know with Kevin, Russell, and Serge on the floor together. You’ve seen some lineups where Serge is off the floor and Kevin and Russell were there. And then, Serge and Kevin being out. And obviously, the trades. So you’ve seen a lot of different lineups. And, um, the team having to go through injuries and different lineups as you mentioned. Um, yet you get caught as a coach having to look at a lot of different things. Um, but certainly last year for them there was not maybe a collective cohesiveness in terms of lineups as you just mentioned.
Media: Billy, what’s been the easiest part of your transition here at Oklahoma City and what’s been the most difficult part?
Billy D: I think the easiest part, you know, as I mentioned to Barry a second ago was that the transition you know really was a very, very smooth one. My, my kids were involved in summer activities so they didn’t come here until about 4 or 5 days before school started. And just getting moved in and getting them settled and adjusted that has gone very, very smoothly. I think that the challenging part and not that its been challenging but required effort was the fact that, uh, myself and Anthony Grant and Mo Cheeks, this is his 2nd stint here so he’s been here, but, you know, us getting acclimated to the players. You know, having to travel and go meet with them. Not that there was any problem, but it took effort I think on all of our part to go over there and try to connect with those guys and try to spend some time with those guys. So, uh, it wasn’t necessarily challenging but it was something I felt like was important that we needed to do as a staff to, uh, start to establish and build relationships with those guys. Um, I think in the building as it relates to Mr. Bennett and Sam (Presti), I think that they’ve really have helped me. The people in the building have really helped me in a lot of different ways. And as I said earlier, the quality of people we have on our coaching staff they’ve helped as well.
Media: You got Kevin Durant back healthy, but Russell had that spurt last season where he was pretty much unstoppable. Is there a balance you try to work out with those two or do you want to keep Russell going at that attack mode every time?
Billy D: Well, the one thing I would say is those two guys have a tremendous relationship and a great relationship and I’ve had the chance to witness that up close and personal when they’ve been with each other. Um, I think there is a great mutual respect and care for one another. Um, I think the thing that I would try to do as a coach to help those guys is allow them to be who they are. You know, Russell is a very, very competitive, attacking, aggressive point guard. And I think that is what makes him special, that’s what makes him great. So I don’t want to take that away from him and change who he is. I think that for Kevin, he is very anxious to get back on the floor and start to play again because, you know, outside playing pick ball, he hasn’t really been out there in a game and a competitive situation in quite some time. So I want to help him and put him in a situation where he can be effective and be who he is so I think the biggest thing is allowing both those guys to be who they are.
Media: What did you think of all the players getting together out in LA over the summer and kind of bonding where they, almost the whole team was out there?
Billy D: Yeah, it was a great thing. You know, I said that one thing I feel very, very good about is these guys all appear to have very good relationships, they get along very, very well. Um, you know, it was really organized and coordinated by the players that they wanted to go out there. So, we were able to kind of go out there. Not that we were able to more than just kind of skill work but it was good to see all of them together and I think all of us spend time together which is always good.
Billy Donovan Transcript from Thunder Media Day