Coaching search profile: Billy Donovan

  • 03/19/2017 12:00 pm in

After nine seasons in Bloomington, Tom Crean is out as Indiana’s head coach and the search for his replacement is underway.

Inside the Hall will profile some of the candidates who are being discussed for the job over the coming days. Our first profile takes a closer look at Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan. 

Billy Donovan to Indiana? It seems like a serious reach, right?

Donovan built a national power at Florida over 19 seasons. He won the SEC tournament four times and the SEC regular season championship six times. He reached four Final Fours and won two national championships.

With little left to achieve in Gainesville, Donovan took the Oklahoma City job in late April of 2015. The Thunder fired Scott Brooks, now looked at as one of the better coaches in the NBA for he job he’s done with the Wizards so far, and grabbed Donovan as the man who could get them back to the NBA Finals.

Donovan, 51, has been successful in Oklahoma City. But the job Donovan accepted in the spring of 2015 isn’t the one he holds today. After the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to Golden State in last season’s Western Conference Finals, Kevin Durant bolted for the Warriors.

A primary reason for Donovan taking the job in Oklahoma City was the chance to work for a great front office, headed by Sam Presti, and the chance to coach both Durant and Russell Westbrook. The departure of Durant has changed the outlook for the Thunder for the foreseeable future.

Oklahoma City is still a playoff team in the Western Conference, but the Thunder are not a contender for the NBA title. And with a core of Westbrook, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter, it’s fair to ask if Oklahoma City can seriously contend in the coming seasons. Without a major trade to land a marquee player or a free agent signing, it’s hard to see a path to the NBA Finals for Oklahoma City.

All of these things, particularly Durant’s decision to depart, have led to speculation that Donovan might be willing to listen if Indiana comes calling. And with a chance to squash any speculation, Donovan didn’t totally kill the idea.

“I am totally happy here,” Donovan said on Thursday. “I love it here. I love the guys I work with every day. I love our staff, the organization. As far as I’m concerned, my commitment is totally here and doing the best job I can while I’m here.”

This was a much difference response than the one Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who shot down any talk of a move to Bloomington.

There was also a comment in Thursday’s press conference with Fred Glass that did nothing to dispel the possibility of a sitting NBA coach becoming a candidate for the position.

“Ultimately,” Glass said, “if someone wants to be the head coach at Indiana University, I think that’s a detail.”

Final analysis: From a coaching standpoint and potential impact, it would be hard for Indiana to do any better than Donovan. He’s a proven, elite coach that would instantly restore national credibility to the program. But is he even interested? It’s a question that has no clear answer at this point.

Further complicating a potential pursuit of Donovan is the logistics of hiring a sitting NBA coach. Donovan is in the stretch run of the NBA season. The regular season ends April 12 and the playoffs begin on April 15, which means he might not be available until late April at the earliest.

Filed to:

  • Bill Graham

    It would be great to get Donovan, or Stevens, or Alford…. but ultimately I don’t think any of those guys are going to leave their current jobs. I can see us getting a proven mid major coach. Mack, Marshall, Miller could all be possibilities. I definitely think there will be a push for Mack since he already recruits Indiana so well.

  • onehoosier

    Get him Fred.

  • John D Murphy

    You had me for a minute.

  • John D Murphy

    You keep bringing up Romeo. Romeo is going to UofL or Duke. We have NO shot at getting Romeo.

  • John D Murphy

    Hoyberg? You don’t think he is an upgrade?

  • Come on, man, let a guy have his dreams!

  • BT

    I just don’t understand why people think he’d leave OKC. They are creeping up on the 4th spot in the West. They are finally getting healthy (Kanter, Oladipo) and made a great trade at the deadline. I think if they can get the 4 seed, they’ll give the Warriors all they can handle.

    I also can’t believe Donovan didn’t bench Westbrook after that infamous travel walking the ball (literally) up the court. I guess that goes to show that besides maybe Pop, NBA coaches have no cahones when it comes to player discipline. So maybe he would go back to college. But IU won’t wait until late-May to pull the trigger.

  • John D Murphy

    Ha. It would be huge get. A new coach, new direction might change the conversation but the word from people close to the family is he is a life long Louisville fan and only only Coach K has a big enough name to challenge that dynamic.

  • mckillio

    Because he might just not lake the NBA that much. ANd I’ll go head and say that, barring injuries of course, OKC has zero chance of making let alone winning the Finals this year or any time soon. The owners are cheap and they have never gotten a marquee free agent, they’ve only ever lost them.

    Westbrook has more than earned himself a brain fart or 12, no discipline needed to let him know not to do something like that.

  • Bk39

    Donovan said he was committed to staying at OKC

  • dan


  • dwdkc

    He’d leave because he thought he was going to be coaching a serious NBA contender. That went out the door when Durant left. They won’t get to #4; they are 3 games back; they could slide to 7 just as easily for a sure one and done series against San Antonio. Glass will know if Donovan is a real possibility well before then. If so, waiting is a no brainer.

  • dwdkc

    They are also a privacy shield for the process. That is probably the most important role. Buys Glass time to do what he needs to do without having his targets embarrassed by potential publicity.

  • pcantidote

    Photo caption contest: “Calm down Hoosier Nation. I’ve got this”.

  • Not at all. His teams have had trouble playing defense. Talk to Bulls fans, and most of them will tell you they want him fired. The benefit would be the NBA connection and ability to attract more recruits, but I don’t consider him an upgrade on Xs & Os.

  • John D Murphy

    I disagree. His teams were consistently national good at Iowa State. Iowa State! Cal sucked in the NBA too and he’s done alright since he came back to the college game.

  • Outoftheloop

    He said No and I believe him!