Presti and Donovan, old friends, will collectively have tremendous say in the franchise’s future.
Of course, Kevin Durant (a free agent in 2016) and Russell Westbrook (a free agent in 2017), remain the two most important people in the organization.
What do they think of Donovan? Presti might not know.
Donovan has had an interest in trying to speak to the Thunder’s key players, including Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, before accepting the job, but it was unclear if that would be facilitated for Donovan, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Throughout the Donovan process, Presti hasn’t conferred with his top players, nor their agents.
On one hand, this makes sense. It doesn’t matter what Durant and Westbrook think of Donovan now. It matters only what Durant thinks of him by summer 2016 and what Westbrook thinks of him by summer 2017. If the star players express a negative reaction to Donovan now and the Thunder hire him anyway, that could harm the team’s relationship with those two. Presti surely doesn’t want to be in the position of not hiring his top choice – the coach he believes would most satisfy Durant and Westbrook a year or two from now – because Durant and Westbrook are initially against it. This method would give Donovan a chance to earn the players’ trust over a year.
On the other hand, Durant and Westbrook are far more important to Oklahoma City than any coach. They should have a say in which coach they work with – and “with,” not “for,” is the appropriate word. Coaches hold only as much sway as star players allow. The relationship is much more collaborative than many understand.
But perception matters, too. Many fans dislike the idea of players having more control than the coach or general manager. Through this lens, I don’t necessarily believe that Presti has ignored his star players. Even if Durant and Westbrook want to be involved, they might not want to be seen as interfering. It wouldn’t be good for their images. So, Presti could show his respect for them and protect them by consulting them and denying it. Logically, nobody could prove he didn’t speak with them about Donovan.
Of course, if Presti is taking this approach, that would indicate Durant and Westbrook are on board with Donovan. If they weren’t, Oklahoma City probably wouldn’t be so far down the road with the coach.