OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly have potential assistant candidates in their building. Despite Billy Donovan entering an uncertain final year of his deal, the fact remains that the Thunder have three open spots on staff they will need to address in the coming weeks.
This article will function under the assumption that Donovan will continue to coach OKC when the 2019-20 season tips-off. With that in mind, here is a list of assistant coaches that Oklahoma City could go after that have Donovan/Thunder ties.
Hertz joined the Florida Gators in 1996 in Donovan’s first season as the head coach. During his 19 seasons under Donovan, Florida won 467 games and two national championships to go along with a slew of great tournament accolades.
Specifically, Hertz was the Dwight Schrute of Donovan’s staff in that he was an “assistant to the head coach.” His responsibilities included non-conference scheduling, organization of recruiting, video scouting, team travel, directing summer camps and hiring/overseeing the team’s student managers.
His time at Florida overlapped with assistant coach Anthony Grant (‘96-’06). Donovan brought Grant along as an assistant with the Thunder in 2015. In 2017 Grant was hired as the head coach of Dayton University. Grant hired Hertz as an assistant coach where he currently serves.
You may remember Mike Miller as the player who doomed OKC in Game 5 of the 2012 Finals.
The 17-year NBA veteran is currently an assistant coach with the University of Memphis under Penny Hardaway. Miller is also very familiar with Donovan.
Miller played at Florida under Donovan from 1998 until 2000. With his three-point shooting, Miller helped lead the Gators to a National Title appearance. Florida lost to the Michigan State Spartans.
Oklahoma City tried to add Miller prior to the 2013-14 season via free agency. This was an era where the Thunder needed a veteran wing who could knock down a three… Oh, that’s this year too. Miller is young in the tooth as an assistant coach, but his familiarity with Donovan’s coaching, NBA and shooting could be an asset for OKC on the staff.
Burno joined Donovan’s staff at Florida in 2012 until 2015. He is currently the associate head coach at Arizona State under Bobby Hurley.
As a former point guard, Burno primarily worked with Donovan’s backcourt players like All-SEC performers Kenny Boyton and Mike Rosario. If Donovan decided to go this route and nab Burno, it could be a smooth transition considering the Thunder’s backcourt players.
During his Florida stint, Burno was given opponent scout duties during his first season. The Gators posted an impressive 11-1 record during this time frame. Burno was promoted to head scouting coach the following year, where Florida enjoyed a 10-0 record.
While the ties to Donovan are there, Burno holds deeper ties with the Hurley family. Burno played under his current boss’ father — Bobby Hurley, Sr. — in high school at St. Anthony’s High School. Burno and Hurley won back-to-back national championships in 1996 and 1997 together.
Current Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Larry Shyatt spent seven seasons under Billy Donovan at Florida from 2004 until 2011. This run included the back-to-back national championships Florida won in 2006 and 2007.
Shyatt was promoted to Florida’s second-in-command prior to the 2007-08 season. According to FloridaGators.com’s athletic database, Shyatt was responsible for the Gator’s leap in offensive output from 2003-04 to the following season. UF went from 11th in the SEC in points scored to third in that time.
He left Florida to be the head coach of the University of Wyoming, a position he held from 2011-2016. Shyatt now works under Rick Carlisle, one of the more respected NBA coaches. As an outside the box thought, this could be a way Presti could have a potential replacement on staff if Donovan leaves or doesn’t perform well enough to gain an extension.
McCall was apart of Donovan’s Florida staff for two stints.
One as a manager and graduate assistant from 2001 (preceding Donovan) until 2006. Following that year, McCall was promoted director of operations for the next two seasons — the national title years.
His second stint with Donovan came during the 2011 season, where he spent the next four years as one of the top assistants on staff.
He is currently the head coach at UMASS. While it may be difficult to sway a current head coach to take an assistant gig albeit at a higher level, McCall’s record of 24-41 over two seasons may be enough for him to think about an NBA career.
Billy Donovan III
This is standard practice for college coaches to hire their family. It isn’t as frequent in the NBA, but hey, it’s the offseason.
Donovan is currently an assistant coach with the Austin Spurs — the San Antonio Spurs G-League affiliate. The Thunder put a lot of value in the G-League on a multitude of levels. A G-League coach from an organization Presti highly respects and models OKC after could be an avenue they could embark upon.
He also played for his father at Florida from 2013-2015.
But man, with every other comment of Thunder-related articles being “Fire Donovan” it would be a hard PR sell for OKC to hire their current head coach’s son.
Lol, ain’t happenin’ but it would fun, no?
Mr. Thunder makes his triumphant return to OKC?
It technically already happened. Presti hired Collison into a “Post-Basketball Transition Position” last year. The former Thunder player also had his jersey retired last year.
Collison has been quiet as to his overall future goals. He has instead wished to spend time with his family and make up for lost time before moving forward with an NBA grinding schedule. If Collison wished to join the coaching staff or a more-involved front office gig, the Thunder would make it so.
While the sports world have all sent their shots towards the disgraced Rick Pitino’s way, Donovan has been consistent in his love for his former coach.
If this were to happen, it would scream of Donovan attempting to help rehabilitate his mentor’s image. The end goal would be to get Pitino a bigger job stateside as he is currently coaching overseas in Greece.
The Thunder organization has been fortunate to avoid scandals off the court. OKC quickly cut ties shortly after a Nenad Krstic chair throw and former player DeAndre Liggins’ domestic assault charge. Adding Pitino would go against that fortune.
In closing, to invoke the man himself; “Rick Pitino ain’t walking through that door.”
As other NBA franchises add former head coaches to their staffs, former Thunder backup guard Fisher is out there.
He infamously coached the New York Knicks from 2014-2016 where he failed. Of course, it was the Knicks, so it’s hard to pin all the blame on him.
Fisher never played under Donovan during his two seasons with OKC (2012 & 2013-14) but has experience with some current players and the front office. Fisher’s background of the Triangle Offense goes against so much of what the Thunder like to do offensively that it is considered blasphemy.
Fisher currently coaches the WNBA’s LA Sparks.
This is selfish. I want it to be so.
Two seasons ago, Perkins was on the practice court simply catching up with the team after the trade deadline. He eventually was picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers a week later. Talking to some team staffers that day, I got the impression if Perkins wanted a job in the building, the Thunder would facilitate it somehow.
An assistant coaching job may be a little out of reach at this point for Perkins. But if he were to get a shot with a front office willing to take a chance on him, it would be OKC.
Perkins never played under Donovan as he was traded at the deadline in 2015. If anything, it would save the basketball-world from some regrettable Perk-takes.
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 featured co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12, in addition to weekly guest spots on “The Franchise Drive” on Tuesdays and “The Franchise Morning Show” on Wednesdays. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports