Tag Archives: Billy Donovan

Daily Thunder Rumblings – 08 August 2017

img_4133-5Happy Tuesday. 70 more days until the NBA season starts. Here are the Rumblings….

David Aldridge of NBA.com ranks the teams in terms of what they’ve done in the offseason: “Compounding the rest of the league’s dilemma is that there was far less money in the system — about a third — than there was a year ago, when most everyone in the game lost its collective mind and threw money at any free agent with a pulse. Also, the league is about to tip over, it is so imbalanced at present, with a significant majority of the game’s elite talent in the Western Conference.” Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 08 August 2017

Daily Thunder Rumblings – 19 July 2017

img_4133-5Happy Hump-Day all. Here are the Rumblings…

A moment of silence for the orange Sunset jerseys (according to Erik Horne).

On that same note, here are some interesting tidbits about the upcoming apparel change for the NBA.

Dakari Johnson is getting a lot of attention in his quest to make it to the NBA: “The Developmental League (re-named to the NBA Gatorade League) has given Johnson the minutes he has needed to prove he’s capable of producing for an NBA organization. “Playing in the D-League, they put you in a lot of different positions where I can expand my game. Shooting the mid-range (jumper), handling the ball, doing different things. I feel like my game has grown,” Johnson said. “In college, it was kind of a system thing. Up in the NBA or in the D-League, there’s a freedom. It’s players making decisions.” His expanded game was evident in the Orlando Summer league. Mark Daigneault — head coach with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, and the coach of OKC’s Summer League team — has worked with the talented big man every step of the way this offseason, mentioning he sees a lot of a former Thunder player in Johnson’s abilities.” Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 19 July 2017

The Terrance Ferguson press conference

Terrance Ferguson had his introductory press conference today at the CHK Boathouse. While you could notice his youthful nervousness, Ferguson had an air of confidence about him that will likely fit in well with this team. Here are a couple highlights from the presser.

On what Ferguson can bring to the Thunder

​​​​On what Oklahoma means to him and what the journey to get to where he is now means to him

On what it was like when he heard his name on draft night Continue reading The Terrance Ferguson press conference

Daily Thunder Rumblings – 14 June 2017

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So Russell Westbrook won the MVP yesterday. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was for Shaqtin-A-Fool.

Russell and Nina finally introduced Noah to the world yesterday. And lil’ man did not disappoint.

The Charlotte Observer reviewed the recent history of the No. 11 pick, which is dripping with Thunder past and present histrionics. Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 14 June 2017

Thunder U to Thunder Men: How the maturation of its star players helped the Oklahoma City Thunder make their coaching change

Oklahoma City Thunder vs San Antonio Spurs

Let’s hark back to a time when we were all young. Let’s examine our lives from 18-24 years of age. You have high school graduation, then either college or work (or both, or neither). You have significant others, one night stands, friends with benefits, friend zones, etc. It’s a time of exploration; a time to make mistakes. You only hope is that the mistakes made during this time period don’t affect you for the rest of your life. Usually, it’s good to have someone that is older and much wiser around you to support you during these times. Not necessarily someone that tells you that you are doing it wrong, but someone that allows you to figure it out on your own, while also giving their own nuggets of advice along the way.

Eventually, though, we all reach that fork in the road of life. Take one path, and you’ll eventually become the old guy that never fully matured and always harks back to his younger years (hello, ‘peaked in high school’ Rob Lowe). Take the other path, and you become the mature adult that you were destined to be. Along the way, the benefactor that helped you in your younger years, may not necessarily be the same person that helps you in your maturing years. Usually, the new benefactor is a more professional role model; someone that you try to emulate as you mature. This new benefactor is usually not as coddling as the old one, and almost always demands that results be brought to the table in order to keep the relationship going.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder fired Scott Brooks, they didn’t just get rid of their coach for the past 7 seasons. They got rid of their coddling, doting benefactor. Don’t get me wrong, though. Scott Brooks did many great things in his time in Oklahoma City. His style of coaching was necessary for a team that was just coming into its own. His ability to develop and culture young talent was/is tantamount to the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Take the ‘players coach’ persona away from the Thunder and replace it with a hardened disciplinarian, and you may have had a scenario where the players got tired of the demanding coach and either wanted out or loathed the thought of coming to practice everyday. It’s basically the reason Brooks replaced PJ Carlesimo as head coach seven seasons ago in the first place.

In the last two seasons we’ve seen the complete maturation of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both these players have gone from great players to bonafide MVP candidates (or winner as in the case of Durant). Durant has gone from just a great scorer to a great all-around player, while Westbrook has gone from questionable point guard to something entirely different that has never been seen from the floor general position. While these two players will continue to add facets to their games as they mature, they’ve essentially reached their point of maturation.

durant westbrook thunder

While many will look at the last two injury plagued seasons as cursed, it has in fact been a great learning tool for both Durant and Westbrook. Their dependency on each other was shucked out the window in the last two years. In its stead, both players were forced to figure things out on their own. Durant went from all-world scorer to all-world all-around player after Westbrook sat out much of the 2013-14 season with various knee ailments. Durant’s scoring and rebounding numbers remained consistent, but his assist numbers went up to 5.5 per game. Based on these numbers and the fact that the Thunder remained atop the Western Conference (2nd, behind the San Antonio Spurs), Durant went on to win the MVP award last season.

Fast forward to this season, when the onus of carrying the Thunder fell on Westbrook as Durant recovered from a broken foot most of the season. Always vilified as being a shoot-first point guard, Westbrook was finally able to balance both scoring and assisting to finish with one of the greatest statistical seasons on record. His numbers in February and March have become things of legend. The media finally began to accept Westbrook for what he was: something they had never seen before. Westbrook’s season will likely not end an MVP award, as the Thunder failed to make the playoffs, but the full maturation of Westbrook has been a beautiful thing to watch. His ability to run the Thunder offense and pick and choose where to go has been tantamount to his success this season. The chemistry Westbrook developed with Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter in such a short period of time probably shows the full maturity of his game more than anything else.

It’s in this maturity that Thunder GM Sam Presti felt it was finally time to cut the umbilical cord to the doting, coddling coach. Too many times the Thunder hid from the fact that Brooks, while great as a communicator, lacked as an X’s and O’s coach. While the team was successful, it was in those critical in-game moments late in the playoffs where Brooks’ warts showed the most. Will new head coach Billy Donovan be able to overcome those deficiencies to take this team to the next level? That remains to be seen. But the players he will be inheriting in Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, will be finished products that will be ready to win. The worst thing that could have happened to Brooks was the complete maturation of Durant and Westbrook without the finality of a championship. Regardless of whether injuries were involved or not, this was a move Presti had to make to get this team to the next level.

The Thunder hire Billy Donovan to be their new head coach

Billy Donovan I

Per league sources, the Oklahoma City Thunder have hired Billy Donovan from the University of Florida to be their new head coach. The team and Donovan agreed to a 5 year contract, with the terms yet to be disclosed. The hiring comes after the Thunder parted ways with long-time head coach Scott Brooks after the season.

Donovan coached at the University of Florida for 19 seasons, garnering two national championships (2006, 2007), four SEC titles, and three SEC Coach of the Year awards. With an impressive NBA player tree that includes names like Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Chandler Parsons, Mike Miller, and Bradley Beal, Donovan’s ability to coach NBA-ready players is second only to Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari. His coaching tree is starting to pick up steam, as young coaches like Shaka Smart, Donnie Jones, and Anthony Grant, who were previous assistants at Florida under Donovan, start to leave their marks in college basketball.

Donovan’s system is tailor made for the NBA. His pick and roll-heavy offense plays for the Thunder’s personnel. And the addition of Enes Kanter as an interior scorer should make this offense that much more dynamic. His defensive approach will also play well into the Thunder scheme of pressuring the ball and defending the paint. The Thunder will have more chances to transform defense into offense under Donovan’s coaching. Donovan is known for his great rapport with his players, but also for holding them accountable for their actions on the court. That’s one area where he and Scott Brooks will likely differ. Donovan’s system has slowly been making its way to Oklahoma City, as the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, have a head coach (Mark Daigneault) that used to be an assistant under Donovan. In addition, the Thunder’s basketball information analyst, Oliver Winterbone, is a former video coordinator under Donovan, and likely helps out in the advanced metrics department.

Donovan comes into a situation many will deem as a dream and a possible nightmare. While the first job of many head coaches usually involves a struggling, rebuilding team, Donovan has been gifted with two of the best players in the world. The Thunder will enter next season with championship aspirations, as they have the last four seasons. But with Kevin Durant’s impending free agency in 2016, every misstep will reverberate even louder than it normally does. For a coach that has never coached in an NBA game, it will be tantamount that he know how to handle that pressure. Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Cleveland’s David Blatt faced similar pressures as first year head coaches heading into this season, and both have been successful. On the other hand, Derek Fisher has had a disastrous first season with the New York Knicks.

While its been reported that Thunder GM Sam Presti has not directly involved Durant or Russell Westbrook in the coaching search, that doesn’t mean the players have not done their homework. Durant stated that he spoke with several former Gator players and is, “generally positive” about the Thunder’s hiring of Donovan. While many will view this response as questionable (why wasn’t he fully positive about it?), one has to also take into account the loyalty Durant has for Brooks. A full endorsement would almost be like a disparaging comment against Brooks. Like any new relationship, this will take time. But I think this will work out fine. Presti has been scouting Donovan for years, and conversely, Donovan has likely been watching the progress of the Thunder from afar these last few seasons. This was not a decision made in haste. In fact, this was likely a decision that has been years in the making.

Ten Possible Candidates for the Oklahoma City Thunder coaching vacancy

thunder brooks kalamian pack

For the first time in seven seasons, the Oklahoma City Thunder are in search of a new head coach. Since their arrival in 2008, the Thunder have always had a head coach in place. PJ Carlesimo started as the head coach for the Thunder in 2008, but after beginning OKC’s inaugural season 1-13, Carlesimo was let go in favor of assistant coach Scott Brooks. Though he initially started with an interim tag, Brooks quickly shed that tag after finishing the last 50 games of that season with a 20-30 mark. In the next 6 seasons, Brooks led the Thunder to 1 Finals appearance and 3 Western Conference Finals appearances. He was awarded the 2010 NBA Coach of the Year award, and was the coach behind James Harden’s 2012 6th Man of the Year award and Kevin Durant’s 2014 MVP award. But as successful as he was in developing top-notch talent, he was just as lacking in a lot of the coaching aspect of coaching. His offense was very simplistic, but the coup de gras may have been is inability/stubbornness to change on the fly, in-game. With that in mind, the organization decided that Brooks had likely hit his glass ceiling with this team and parted ways with him.

No separation is ever without tension. But this one seems to be amicable on both sides. The Thunder, and Brooks, himself, did not want to go into this next season with the lame-duck status over their heads. With Durant’s impending free agency quickly approaching, any misstep or change in-season could be seen as a desperation move. The organization decided that if a change was going to be made, it had to be now, so that there is some consistency heading into the season. With that said, this becomes the first ever head coaching search in the history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. As soon as Brooks’ departure was announced, several names were dropped as potential candidates for the now vacant head coaching job. With Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka currently in tow, this is likely one of the more desirable jobs for a head coach. Here are 10 possible candidates for the Thunder’s head coach gig.

Internal Candidates

Rex Kalamian – Kalamian has been one of Brooks’ top assistants for the past 5 seasons. He has overseen the development of the Thunder’s players and has also been the coach of the Thunder’s summer league team the last 3 seasons, winning the Orlando Summer League in 2013. Kalamian has been an NBA coaching lifer, starting as scouting assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers in 1992, and moving onto to stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Sacramento Kings, before settling into his current position with the Thunder. He appears to have a great rapport with the players and a hiring like this would lessen the blow of the coaching change.

Troy Weaver – The Thunder’s current vice president/assistant general manager also has an extensive coaching portfolio. He started by coaching AAU ball in the Washington D.C. area from about 1992-1996. He went on to be an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh, University of New Mexico, and then onto Syracuse University, where he is credited with recruiting Carmelo Anthony to the school. In 2004, he became the head scout for the Utah Jazz. Later he promoted to director of player personnel in 2007, and held that post through the end of the 2008 season. He was then hired by the Thunder in his current position, where he assists with roster building (NBA Draft preparation and free agency) and day to day basketball operations. Remember, the Spurs, whom the Thunder tend to emulate, once hired their general manager as their coach and went on to win 5 championships in a 16 year period.

College Coaches

Billy Donovan – The current University of Florida coach has a good relationship with Thunder GM Sam Presti, who hired two of Donovan’s assistants in the past year (Mark Daigneault as the coach of Oklahoma City’s Development League team and Oliver Winterbone as a basketball information analyst). Donovan currently boasts a 467-186 record at Florida, leading the Gators to consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007. He has been named SEC Coach of the Year in three of the last 5 seasons. He has a reputation as a great player developer and values depth on the offensive end and toughness on the defensive end.

billy donovan kevin ollie

 

Kevin Ollie – The current UCONN coach has a history with the Thunder that can still be felt today. Ollie played his final season in the NBA with the Thunder and was sited as the veteran that taught Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook how to be men in the NBA. Durant even notes him as being the purveyor of the current culture that is the Thunder. After retiring from the NBA in 2010, he went on to be an assistant coach under Jim Calhoun at Connecticut. After two seasons, he took over for Calhoun and went on to win the 2014 NCAA Championship. According to various media outlets, Ollie has removed his name from consideration for the Oklahoma City job.

Fred Hoiberg – The Iowa State coach is one of the hottest commodities in current coaching circles. His innovative, almost Spursian-like offense, made the Cyclones one of the top scoring teams in the NCAA’s throughout his coaching tenure. Players to come out of Hoiberg’s system are usually jack of all trades that are good at all aspects of the game, but not great at any one thing. In his 5 seasons in Ames, he has amassed a 115-56 record. He also has professional experience, as he worked in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office from 2007-2010.

NBA Coaches and Assistant Coaches

Tom Thibodeau – The current Chicago Bulls coach is known as one of the best defensive minds in the game. Before working in Chicago, he was one of the top assistants in the league from 1989-2010. The work he has done with the Bulls the past few injury-racked seasons has proven his worth as a coach that is able to excel, even in difficult situations. The Bulls’ coach has amassed a 255-139 record in his 5 seasons in Chicago. The knock on Thibodeau has always been the amount of time he plays his main players and his lack of player development/depth. That may come into play with the Thunder’s top players suffering from injuries in the past few seasons. Various media outlets have reported that Thibodeau may be on his way out in Chicago, regardless of where they finish this season.

Alvin Gentry – Gentry is currently the associate head coach for the Golden State Warriors, serving under head coach Steve Kerr. His “Spursian/Phoenix Suns 7 second or less hybrid” offense has worked wonders for the Warriors. Gentry is currently one of the highest paid assistants in the league. In his career, Gentry has gone 335-370 in previous stints with Miami, Detroit, the Clippers, and Phoenix.

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game Six

Rick Carlise – While there is nothing that points to Dallas letting go of Carlisle, his frustration over the Rajon Rondo situation may boil over in the offseason, especially if the Mavericks don’t get out of the first round. Carlisle will be heading into the final year of his contract next season. If the team or Carlisle don’t see eye to eye on the future direction of the team in the offseason, I could definitely see a Scott Brooks situation where Carlisle walks away from the final year of his contract to go to another team with a guaranteed long-term deal. Carlisle has amassed a 619-431 record in his 13 years of coaching with Detroit, Indiana, and Dallas. He won a championship with Dallas in 2011.

Spurs’ Assistant Coaches

Chip Engelland – The Spurs assistant is credited with honing the shots of many Spurs’ players. He is known as the top shooting specialist in the league, and has built his portfolio up as an assistant in the past decade around the league.  He has a reputation for developing a great rapport with his players and is routinely tasked with monitoring the Spurs’ players training/shooting regiments in the offseason.

Ettore Messina – Before being hired on by the Spurs as an assistant coach, Messina was the top European coach in basketball. He led two Euroleague teams (Virtus Bologna and CSKA Moscow) to two championship apiece and was twice named Euroleague Coach of Year in 2006 and 2008. Messina is revered in basketball circles as a great basketball mind, almost like a European Larry Brown. Messina’s coaching philosophy fits in line with the Spurs’ model of floor balance and ball movement. He loves to balance the floor to keep the defense moving, especially with post-ups. With the Thunder’s recent acquisition (and hopeful re-signing) of Enes Kanter, they now have an interior scorer that could completely balance the floor in a Messian-run offense.

Wild Cards

Jeff Van Gundy – Anytime a good coaching vacancy opens up, Jeff Van Gundy’s name is always brought up. The former Knicks’ and Rockets’ coach has been out of coaching for the past 8 years, and while he has never said that he is interested in coaching again, he’s never said he isn’t interested in coaching again. Van Gundy amassed a  430-318 record in his 11 seasons of coaching. With a nice broadcasting gig with ESPN and ABC, Van Gundy can wait for the right opportunity to get back into coaching. If both parties (the Thunder and Van Gundy) are interested, he could be possible candidate.

Coach-K

Mike Krzyzewski – Coach K is well on his way to being on the Mt. Rushmore of college basketball coaches. He just got done capturing his 5th NCAA championship this past season. For the past 10 seasons, he has been the head coach for USA Basketball, where he has coached Durant and Westbrook in international competitions. What if for a second, Coach K decides that there is nothing else he can accomplish in college basketball and would like to see what he could do in the NBA before it comes time for retirement. The Thunder vacancy would be the perfect opportunity of Coach K to pursue this.

The Thunder coaching vacancy is one that should generate plenty of interest. The opportunity to coach Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and possibly Kanter in their primes has to a dream for many coaches. As it stands right now, Donovan seems to be the front runner for the job. But if the Thunder still have not decided on a coach within the next two weeks, look for the Thunder to be leaning towards one of the coaches in the NBA circle.

Oklahoma City Thunder part ways with head coach Scott Brooks

scott brooks durant thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder have parted ways with head coach Scott Brooks after an injury riddled 45-37 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in the last five seasons. It was nearly a week ago, during exit interviews, that the organization advised they would evaluate the head coaching position as they headed into the offseason. To that, Scott Brooks remarked, “I expect to be the coach next season,” when asked about it during his exit interview.

Scott Brooks took over as head coach for the Thunder one month into their inaugural season in Oklahoma City. At that point, the Thunder were 1-12 and looking like a team that may threaten the Philadelphia 76ers mark for futility in a season. With Brooks at the helm, the Thunder rebounded enough to salvage a 23-win season. The year after that, the upstart Thunder won 50 games and made the playoffs as an 8th seed and took the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to 6 games. Brooks was awarded the NBA Coach of the Year after that season. The next season, he took the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to eventual champions, the Dallas Mavericks. The next season, Brooks led the Thunder to the NBA Finals, where they lost in 5 games to the Miami Heat. The next years ended in disappointment as key players were lost to injury in the playoffs (Russell  Westbrook in 2013 and Serge Ibaka in 2014). This season, which started with championship aspirations, soon devolved into a struggle as the Thunder suffered injury after injury to key players, which saw Westbrook miss the first month with a broken hand, reigning MVP Kevin Durant play in only 27 games due to a broken foot, and Ibaka miss the last month of the season after knee surgery. The Thunder never gained any traction during the season, and eventually missed out on the playoffs to the New Orleans Pelicans in the final day of the season. Brooks finishes his tenure in Oklahoma City with a 338-207 (.620) record.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Thunder GM Sam Presti’s decision wasn’t a reflection of the job Brooks did this season, but more a long-term view for the franchise. While this may go down as a firing, a couple other teams have hinted at their interest for Brooks. The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets are both rebuilding teams that are looking for a coach that has already been through and succeeded in that process.

The question now becomes, who’s the next Thunder head coach. Rumors are abound that University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan and UCONN head coach Kevin Ollie may be candidates for the opening. Both coaches have history with the Thunder. Two former Donovan assistants have been hired by the Thunder in the past few seasons, one of which is their current D-League coach, Mark Daigneault. Ollie, on the other hand, played for the Thunder in the 2009-10 season, and is credited by Durant, as being the person that established the current culture in Oklahoma City. Both have a championship pedigree, as Donovan has won 2 NCAA championships and Ollie has won one. Another candidate may be Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, who has been successful in college, but also has front office experience with the Timberwolves in the past. Other candidates may be embattled Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau or Golden State Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry.

This next season may be a make or break season for the Thunder, as Durant approaches unrestricted free agency in 2016. Hire the wrong guy, and the organization can seal the deal on Durant not coming back. While Brooks may have had his faults, he always had the support of his superstars, and NBA, that carries a lot of weight.