Report: Thunder ‘preparing offer, pushing to hire’ Florida’s Billy Donovan to be next coach

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UPDATE 11:03 a.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that the Thunder are preparing an offer for Billy Donovan and pushing him to accept the job as the team’s next head coach. The deal would reportedly need to start in the $6 million per year range in order for Donovan to consider it.

Kevin Durant has reportedly reached out to at least one of Donovan’s former players to do somewhat of a reference check on the coach, and has become “generally positive” about the potential hiring.

7:49 a.m.: Almost from the moment Scott Brooks was fired, the name first mentioned as the frontrunner to fill the vacancy was Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Now Thunder management and Donovan have started formal talks, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti have opened a dialogue about the position, which became available a week ago after the dismissal of Scott Brooks…

Donovan is the first known candidate to talk with the Thunder about the job. It was not immediately clear how many other candidates, if any, Presti plans to sit down with.

People in front offices around the NBA like Donovan and think he’s a guy who can make the transition from college to the NBA (a door opened again with the success Brad Stevens has had in Boston). Donovan is believed to have the Xs and Os chops, plus he is a strong motivator. Donovan and Presti have a relationship already (Presti has hired a couple people off the Florida staff in recent years). You can add to that rumors floating around the league that Donovan would jump to the NBA for the “right” opportunity — there are not many opportunities that are more “right” than OKC. Even Donovan’s former Gator star Bradley Beal said he thinks his former coach is destined for the NBA.

The Thunder have a lot riding on this hire — Kevin Durant is a free agent in the summer of 2016, Russell Westbrook one year later. If the Thunder are going to keep those guys, they need to either win a title next season or convince the pair they have a better chance of doing that together in OKC than anywhere else.

Which means they need a coach who can elevate this team to a championship level. Brooks can coach, OKC needs to make a “Phil Jackson replaces Doug Collins” or “Steve Kerr replaces Mark Jackson” kind of hire.

Is Presti sure a first-year coach out of the college ranks is they guy who can elevate this team to the highest levels of the NBA? That is a massive gamble.

But the sides are at least discussing it.