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The OKC Thunder have hired Billy Donovan as their new head coach


After firing head coach Scott Brooks shortly after the end of their season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have found and hired a replacement: University of Florida’s Billy Donovan.

The 49-year-old has about as impressive of a resume as any college coach, and it makes sense for him to jump the professional level in 2015. Donovan and his program had become less effective at recruiting in recent days, fielding a roster this past season that didn’t even crack the NCAA tournament.

Talent won’t be a problem for Donovan in OKC, though. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be his for at least one season. Durant, of course, can test free agency in the summer of 2016, so Donovan’s first year on the job comes with the pressure of winning over the 2014 MVP’s affections enough to help him make a decision to stay with the Thunder.

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Donovan is no stranger to NBA talent. At Florida he developed Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, David Lee, Chandler Parsons and Bradley Beal. With Noah, Horford and Brewer, his Gators were a rockstar squad that won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007.

The Thunder were known to be fond of Donovan for some time — probably well before they pulled the plug on Brooks. Donovan and OKC general manager Sam Presti are friendly, and it appears today that the Thunder were never really embarking on a search for a Brooks replacement, but instead banking on Donovan being up for the job.

Part of the thinking surrounding his hire is that the team needs to have a smart, successful program in place with or without their mega-talented superstars sticking around. Donovan’s vision is in line with the front office’s, and Presti decided it was time to make a shift into a more cohesive future, rather than hanging onto a coach who took the team out of the basement, for sentimental reasons.

— John Wilmes