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.

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  • vicbert caladipo

    I think what Mark is saying if I may use an analogy. Say you are looking for a dog. You know of a really good dog. Loyal, good with kids, nice disposition, but you’d rather have a puppy so you can raise it and watch it grow. The puppy may crap on the rug a few times, but it will eventually become a dog and hopefully the good dog you always wanted.

  • iugradmark

    Chris Mack seems to tick all the boxes. Demonstrated track record, CONSISTENCY, no program issues, recruits the Midwest, teams play fundamental ball, age, family man. I emphasize consistency because it was used in describing the firing of Crean. He could hit the ground running. I think IU could be competitive with him next year and quickly build. Forgot to mention former player.

  • vicbert caladipo

    I’d like that hire a lot. He and Donovan would be top choices along with Few, but since not one person has mentioned Few, I’m guessing it’s virtually impossible.

  • jozink

    He’s a good coach, but I can’t quite put a finger on why folks seem to like him so much. Is it because of what he’s done at “Xavier” with that level of support and resources? He has done well, but one could argue he hasn’t even been as successful as his two predecessors at Xavier. He’s made 3 sweet sixteens, but also lost in the first or second round, or not made the tournament in 5 of his 8 years (not counting this year).

    I just don’t get it.

  • Ms hoosier

    Wouldn’t be great if Kentucky lost!!!!!!

  • Koko

    Would make my day

  • Piker

    Yeah I guess 6 of our loses were not as bad as we all thought

  • iugradmark

    Not sure what is the correct info but I am seeing he has made the tournament every year he has coached except one.

  • 87 Hoosier

    Parker Executive Search will be retained to manage the Search according to some guy by the name of Rick Bozich…that didn’t take long considering Glass initially said they wouldn’t use a search firm.

  • jozink

    Xavier missed in 2012-2013. But even if they made it, my point still stands. I don’t think IU fans would be thrilled with that performance. Now, we might say “Well the last two Xavier coaches have moved on to bigger and better things and done well.” (Thad and Sean Miller)

    However, I’m not sure the IU faithful are really ready for taking chances this time around with someone that seems like they might do as well as either of those two, not having proven that he is as good as they are to begin with.

  • iugradmark

    Making the tourney 90% of the time is impressive to me. I can see him getting an upgrade in talent at IU.

  • I think that’s a great sign if true — it means that there’s so much interest that Glass can’t sort through it all by himself.

  • I got some grief for saying it earlier, but Mack is my #1 choice as well.

  • I think that’s entirely correct — if he can do what he did at Xavier with its resources, then imagine what he can do at IU. And, the guy is obviously good at recruiting Indiana. He could bring Scruggs along with him, and I wager he’d have a good shot at getting Romeo next year. If he could, then that bodes well for getting the best Indiana players well into the future, which is huge for me personally.

  • Fifer39

    I think he said he wouldn’t establish a search committee but I’m pretty sure he did say they had retained a firm.

  • 87 Hoosier

    Perhaps that’s what I heard…my old brain has short term recall issues. I read a story about this firm. It sounds like they have quite a database on coaches to help AD’s check off the boxes.

  • Fifer39

    What is it they do exactly? It’s not like they’re going to turn up a name nobody ever heard of. I guess it’s mostly about the vetting.

  • For me personally, they were just as bad, because we should have been competitive with these teams. And getting owned like that by Michigan was painful.

  • Loved to see that one. I hate Louisville almost as much as UK and Purdue. They shouldn’t be playing basketball with what they’ve gotten away with.

  • Close, but unfortunately no cigar.

  • I can’t go that far…

  • Vladimir Sonovabitch

    Rumor has it….. his wife was in Bloomington looking at property

  • 87 Hoosier

    Correct. Their database apparently covers current salaries, shoe contracts and other supplemental pay, current buyouts… APR’s, the obvious stuff like career records. Up front they work with their client to determine the qualifications desired and use the database to develop a target list to supplement the client’s target list. They arrange travel for candidates, coordinate interviews, negotiate contracts when it gets to that’s point.

  • Fifer39

    …and she popped in to IU Apparel to try on some hoodies.

  • Lance Luegers

    Bring on Steve Alford. Should have hired him many years ago. We need a Hoosier to take the program back to the promised land.

  • 87 Hoosier

    Apparently, IU is only using them for background checks on their selected targets.

  • Ole Man

    Sorry, I read what you wrote, but it doesn’t add up to me.
    It would be the former coach who came to Indiana and became a legend!
    Roy Williams was a great coach at KU, but he will be more remembered as UNC’s coach. Just one example.

  • That’s one spin, and I get that too. And so as I’ve said, it’s not like I’d be _upset_ if the choice were Donovan. There’s simply a part of me who hopes it’s someone like Mack.

    Really, of all the candidates, none would really bum me out except a couple. Alford is who I want the least, even though he’s pretty popular, as far as I can tell, among some IU fans (not so much here on ITH, of course).

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    I’m not sure how good a barometer for “all IU fans” ITH comment boards are, but I am not seeing a ton of love for Alford as a coaching prospect.

    I am finally ready to accept that it won’t be Stevens, and so Donovan is my #1 choice.

    After him, I think it’s more of a jumbled pack of Marshall, Archie Miller, Chris Mack, Chris Holtmann, Chris Collins.

    I wish we could just officially leave Alford and Fife out of the discussion. I see no way they line up with the traits/requirements/factors Glass mentioned would guide this selection process.

  • Looks like I made the mistake of mentioning something I shouldn’t have, my first response is waiting approval. So, basically, when I check out Facebook comments to ITH story posts, I see lots of people calling for Alford. Yes, that’s definitely _not_ the same as the ITH crew — I’d say most here are more than the average casual fan.

    I get Donovan as your first choice. Mine’s Mack. No idea though where the search is trending, and I can’t imagine that Alford would check Glass’s boxes in a few areas.

  • Mop lady, yeah, that’s right. I remember that whenever I saw her on TV, it was game time.

  • Ben thorne

    This made me cry just a little

  • Piker

    I always Ytube the mop lady and the Wat shot to lift my spirits. As you can imagine I watch alot this season.

  • Nice!

  • Piker

    Yeah I understand it just think Donovan would bring IU back faster than anyone else. Just him taking the job would justify the relevance of the program that some are dismissing these days. I am with Mack if not Donovan. I think he will bring all FG was talking about.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Taking Stevens at his word, I think that Glass has to check in on Donovan to see what his interest level is. So far as gravitas, we can’t do any better than Billy. I don’t know if he’s the best option out there, but I’d think that for the next 15 years we’d be really, really good.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Few’s teams seem to always underperform in March. Also, he’s a West Coast guy, and while that in itself doesn’t turn me off from him, it does make you wonder how he’d recruit in the Midwest. There are far fewer big fish out west compared to the Midwest. I think it is fair to wonder if he could recruit as well when he’s competing against a lot more programs and a lot better programs.

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  • Hoosier Hall

    I really like Altman. Hadn’t really thought of him but he’s done a tremendous job recruiting and winning over the last few seasons.

  • SeeingRed

    What’s gonna help Billy with recruiting is those two huge NCAA Championship rings on his hands, plus recent NBA experience, including having coached two future Hall of Famers. It’s a new day … 🙂

  • If it weren’t for the screw job on NW…

  • And you think Mack’s resume is better than donovan?

  • Other than Stevens and Donovan, no one else is a serious upgrade from crean (if you turn back the clock and evaluate crean only based on what we knew of him at marquette)

  • These are the same points that made people excited 9 years ago by an up and coming coach from Marquette

  • I totally forgot about Few. I’d consider him an upgrade over Crean too. Mack and Miller certainly are not more impressive than crean’s potential 9 years ago.

  • James Sasser

    Just watched Chris Mack on Mike &Mike and it really sounds like he is staying put at Xavier, for what its worth

  • Sam

    My two cents: IU hasn’t played in the Final Four since the year after Knight “left”. That was 15 years and three coaches ago that either a) couldn’t recruit (legally at least), or b) couldn’t coach down the stretch to finish a game in the tournament. CTC was a great recruiter, but no one will claim he’s a great sideline coach or finishing coach. His previous success was when a player by the name of Dwayne Wade played for him for two sessions – after that his team’s were mediocre and he only had one win in the NCAA Tourney.

    We need anyone willing to come in, your standards of “hiring a homer” don’t leave much leeway.

    We are 30yrs since our last title, we aren’t going to get top tier coaches if we aren’t really a top tier program anymore

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    Donovon over Chris Mack all day long. But I agree with Alfords resume. It’s a weird world my brother is all in for Alford though.

  • William H. Rupley

    If you want an Indiana based coach and one who has played in high school, college, and the pros then my choice would be Bryce Drew.

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    Why would Mark Few leave, he is Gonzaga. Granted he is an outstanding coach but he’s pretty entrenched at Gonzaga. I know money talks but still I tend to think it is a non-starter.