FIRST ON NEWS 9: Billy Donovan Takes Over As Thunder Head Coach

Sources tell News 9 the Thunder coaching search is over as the team will bring in University of Florida coach Billy Donovan.Donovan's named popped up as one of the leading candidates the moment Oklahoma City fired Scott Brooks.

Thursday, April 30th 2015, 11:43 am

By: News 9


News 9 was the first to confirm the Thunder have hired University of Florida coach Billy Donovan. 

General Manager Sam Presti is set to introduce Donovan at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. We'll carry the press conference live on KWTV-News 9 and News9.com.

Donovan becomes the third head coach in Thunder history after spending the past 19 years at the University of Florida where he led the Gators to two National Championships and four trips to the Final Four while amassing a record of 467-186 (.715).

“We are thrilled to welcome Billy and his family to the Oklahoma City Thunder organization," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. "When we began the process of identifying the next head coach of the Thunder, we started with a vision and the identifiable qualities that we felt were necessary for our organization as well as the ever evolving role of the head coach in today's NBA. We wanted to identify a person with the traits associated with high achieving leaders in their respective fields; a continuous learning mentality, the ability to adapt, evolve and innovate, intrinsically motivated, humility, and great tactical competence. While we created a comprehensive analysis regarding the qualities we were looking for, it became quite evident that Billy was the ideal fit for the Thunder as we look to transition our team into the future. Billy has achieved an incredible level of success and experience within his 21 years as a head coach and has shown the unique ability to not only create but sustain an elite program. His emotional intelligence, commitment to the concept of team, and relentless approach to incremental improvement have allowed him to bring his players together and establish lasting relationships through competitive success. Billy's core values and alignment with our culture and community, as well as his proven tactical abilities, make him an ideal addition to the Thunder organization.”

RELATED STORY: Donovan's Accomplishments At Florida Underrated

Donovan's named popped up as one of the leading candidates the moment Oklahoma City fired Scott Brooks. The 49-year-old Long Island native has coached the Gators since 1996 and led the program to 16 straight 20-win seasons, three 30-win seasons, 17 consecutive trips to the postseason and six SEC Championships. Under Donovan, Florida has advanced to the Elite Eight in six of the past 10 seasons.

Donovan has long flirted with the NBA, even taking the Orlando job for a day in 2007 before having a change of heart and returning to Gainesville, but he doesn't actually have any pro coaching experience.

He'll inherit an experienced Thunder roster including two of the best players on the planet; that's as good a learning curve as one could possibly hope for. Thunder fans are hoping the hire will ultimately contribute toward Kevin Durant re-signing with OKC after the 2015-16 season.

“I am honored and humbled to be named the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder," Donovan said in a statement. "I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation. The Thunder represents so many of the values that I embrace as a head coach; the commitment to the team above oneself, the dedicated pursuit of excellence, the commitment to organizational culture, the identity they have established and the fact that the Thunder and the community are so intricately woven into the fabric of one another. To have the ability to work with such a talented and high character group of players is also rare, and I am excited to forge ahead creating those relationships. It is of course bittersweet as the University of Florida will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my family's. I've had the good fortune of working with the best athletic director in the country in Jeremy Foley over the last 19 years, and I'll be forever grateful and thankful for the opportunity and his friendship. Countless players, students, and other people in the administration were responsible for our success and for the meaningful connection we had with the Gainesville community. I have a deep appreciation for what the University of Florida will always mean to me and I'll forever be a Gator.”

Donovan will reportedly get a five-year deal.

"No-brainer for Billy Donovan," tweets ESPN's Jeff Goodman. "Chance to coach two of the top 5 or so players in the NBA. Can always come back to college, get better gig."

Former Donovan player and current Dallas Mavs forward Chandler Parsons tweeted, "Big time hire for OKC. Congrats @UFCoachBillyD !!!"

CBS Sports' Gary Parrish said Donovan was the only serious candidate for the job. Former Thunder swingman Desmond Mason, now with local sports radio station The Franchise, thinks the pressure is on Donovan to win a championship immediately. "If (the Thunder) can't pull it off this year, the odds of KD leaving are high," Mason said after the news broke. 

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