For the first time since 1996, Billy the Kid will not be the head man in Gainesville. Billy Donovan will be leaving Florida after 19 years to become the new head coach of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Donovan has accepted a multi-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he’ll have a chance, at least for one year, to coach two of the NBA’s elite players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
There was hope Donovan would stay in Gainesville after a reported extension and the return of former assistant Anthony Grant. However, the pull of OKC general manager Sam Presti and his pre-existing relationship with Donovan appeared to be too much.
Donovan saw a great deal of success in his time in Gainesville, bringing the Gators to seven Elite Eights, four Final Fours, and back-to-back national championships. He is the second youngest ever to reach 500 wins, as his overall record now sits at 502-206.
Now the speculation focuses on who will succeed Donovan. Some possible early candidates include Dayton’s Archie Miller, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino, and perhaps Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. And, how do assistants John Pelphrey and Grant fit into the picture, if at all?
Whoever takes the head job in Gainesville will be at the helm of a changing time. The new coach will have to deal with planned O’Dome renovations, and a team looking to bounce back from missing the postseason entirely. However, most of the players will be returning, including leading scorer Dorian Finney-Smith.