OKLAHOMA CITY — I was there when Billy Donovan and Sam Presti answered questions to assembled media at their exit interviews. The language both men used when asked about the future of the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder was admittedly interesting.
“We anticipate Billy being back,” Presti said. “I wouldn’t expect anything to change. I haven’t had the chance to sit down with him. If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.”
Anticipate opens the door for so many possibilities. Especially for a fanbase that is so starved of postseason success after three consecutive seasons of first round exits.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers hiring of former University of Michigan’s John Beilein, Donovan’s name — as it always has whenever a name-college job opens up — has been thrown into the ring for potential replacements. This is not the result of inside information, rather a product of The Sporting News’ Mike Decourcy’s opinion.
From the article:
But who will coach these guys?
We came up with some promising candidates for [Michigan Athletic Director, Warde] Manuel to consider. If he gets one of these gentleman, it could turn out OK.
Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder — He has been insistent about his desire to remain in the NBA, but four years managing Russell Westbrook might make getting back to recruiting seem desirable. He obviously was bothered during his time at Florida by that part of the job, but he would be following someone who made two NCAA championships this decade as Mr. Clean. He knows he can expect the same from his chief rival in the Big Ten. This might be the ideal time to make a move.
Aggregators have taken this opinion and run with it as evidence that Michigan’s top choice is, in fact, Billy Donovan. Michigan has not made their list of candidates public. This, along with assumptions and the thirst for change from a disappointed Thunder fan base, has helped spread this rumor.
This is not the first time this has happened with Donovan.
Last year after Indiana fired Tom Crean, Donovan was a hot-topic choice to replace him. Rumors swirled on the internet to the point that Donovan was apparently house shopping in Bloomington.
During Russell Westbrook’s annual Why Not? Bowl charity event, Donovan was present despite house hunting in Bloomington.
Beware the rumors.
Of course, Michigan could very well covet the services of the current Thunder head coach. Donovan is entering the final year of his deal with his future with Oklahoma City uncertain, at least to those outside the walls of the Thunder front office.
“For me it’s just kind of like business as usual.” Donovan said at his exit presser. “Sam and I had a chance to visit a little bit on the plane on the way back [from Portland], just talking about the next couple days and getting together. So I’m sure he and I will get a chance to set down as some of this stuff slows down and talk in detail and look forward to that.”
The possibility is there, of course. According to BetOnline, the favorite for the Michigan job is former Wolverine player and current Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard as the 3/1 favorite. Donovan has the second most favorable odds at 7/2.
Just be weary of what information you are consuming. Is it the stuff of rumor? Does the thought of Donovan’s departure stem from an emotional place?
We have heard time and time again when this situation occurs how coaching Westbrook could wear on a coach like Donovan. Assumptions to the many pieces of evidence to the contrary. If you are in the game of assumptions, perhaps think about the prospect of Donovan not wanting to return to the culture of recruiting.
That is just as realistic, right?
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