Billy Donovan turned down Thunder’s two-year offer to stay as OKC coach before the NBA resumes, reports

Billy Donovan turned down Thunder's two-year offer to stay as OKC coach before the NBA resumes, reports

In some surprising NBA news, Billy Donovan will not return to the Oklahoma City Thunder next season, The team was announced Tuesday night. Donovan’s contract as head coach of Thunder expired after the 2019-20 season, and although initial reports indicated it was a mutual decision by the parties involved, Oklahoma City offered Donovan a new deal with a two-year guarantee before the start. From the NBA restart, according to Shams Al Sharrania of Athletic, but he turned it down.

The Thunder rented Donovan away from the University of Florida in 2015 after moving from Scott Brooks. He led them through one of the 2016 NBA Finals, but after leaving Kevin Durant that summer, the team was forced to take a step back. They jumped back into contention with the acquisition of Paul George, but after he and Russell Westbrook were traded this season, Thunder was set to be rebuilt.

This rebuilding didn’t come immediately, though, as Donovan took the parts team supplied by Oklahoma City and led the Thunder team to the playoffs as the surprising No.5 seed. They pushed the Rockets to seven games in the first round despite having Westbrook, their former team’s best player, were sent to Houston during the off-season. Donovan was named third coach of the year for his efforts.

But Chris Ball, the centerpiece of their amazing season, is 35 years old and on contract that doesn’t fit into Oklahoma City’s long-term plans. It would be a valuable commercial piece, and a potential team hub in rebuilding was a factor in Donovan’s exit, according to Adrian Voynarovsky of ESPN. The split was so friendly, and now, Donovan would be a candidate for other open jobs around the NBA. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and New Orleans Pelicans all have openings at the moment, and although the Rockets have expressed a desire to keep Mike Dantoni, it’s worth noting that his deal expires after the season as well. He can also return to the college game where he made his name.

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Donovan, who had resisted overtures from NBA teams for years after breaking an agreement to train the Orlando Magic, joined the thunder expecting to train a competitor. He did it when it was expected and when it wasn’t. But now he and the team appear to be moving in different directions. Thunder now has a much coveted opportunity, and Donovan will be among the most accomplished coaches on the market.

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