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OKC Thunder: Donovan Settling Into New Position

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

New Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan is able to get from his hotel, to Starbucks and to the Thunder practice facility and back, but not much else when it comes to navigating his new city. But right now, Donovan has a lot more important things to take care of besides discovering the city's best restaurant (can't go wrong with Red Rock Canyon Grill, coach.).

In his first interview with News 9 since his introductory press conference, Donovan spoke at length of his ongoing efforts to build relationships with his new team, particularly Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Donovan said he has met with every member of the team in person expect for Steven Adams—who is currently in New Zealand—and that all the conversations have gone well.

“Talked about the team, talked about them as players, what their summer plans are, a little bit of basketball, how can I help them, how can I help the team,” Donovan said as he ran down the conversation topics. “It was very informal; it wasn't like this deep discussion.”

Donovan did say he's had a lot of time with Durant, as Durant has been at the Thunder practice facility nearly every day going through rehab on his foot. He added that while he takes the approach of letting the Thunder medical staff do their job without interference, every report he has received about Durant's progress has been “very, very positive.”

How Donovan will handle Westbrook has been a hot topic as well, as it appeared Westbrook and Scott Brooks had a good relationship on and off the court that took plenty of time to develop. But Donovan has dealt with high-energy, high-passion guys before, including one NBA star in particular.

“Somebody that I coached, Joakim Noah, had a very similar fire and passion for the game,” Donovan said. “I love guys that want to fight and compete. You want players who have that passion and Russell has that. I think he brings some qualities to the table that not many players can bring to the table.

“The first time we had a chance to sit down and talk for an hour, hour and a half, it was great. I think sometimes when people see someone very emotional, very passionate—and I felt like this with Joakim sometimes. People thought emotionally it was too much and I think that's just the sign of someone who really cares and is passionate about it.”

There has been plenty of speculation (and answers from Donovan and Sam Presti) about if Presti consulted Durant and Westbrook before hiring Donovan or if Donovan spoke with his new superstars before accepting the job. Donovan reiterated on Thursday he had not talked to anyone on the Thunder roster before taking the position.

“I didn't feel that was necessary,” Donovan said. “I think Sam and Mr. (Clay) Bennett had a specific way they wanted to go through that process; they wanted to lay out what the organization was about.”

A key topic that was discussed was the use of analytics and how Donovan's coaching ability would take the use of advanced statistics to the next level. Donovan said analytics are very important in his coaching.

“What you can do is find answers and reasons for why something is happening,” Donovan said, putting the use of the advanced metrics in plain terms. “From a coaching perspective, you take those things and ask why are they (opponents) good at those things. The analytics part always helps you as a coach to get right into what the reasons are those teams are effective or ineffective in a certain area.”

There's still a lot of time before the Thunder begin the most important season in franchise history, but there's plenty to keep Donovan occupied. Even though he hasn't found his way all around town just yet, he's beginning to find his way around the Thunder, their mission and their personalities.

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