As the Thunder moved quickly to install Billy Donovan as the team’s new head coach — a process that couldn’t possibly have included looking at multiple candidates, considering it was completed in less than a week’s time — reports emerged that the team’s GM, Sam Presti, was doing so without consulting his star players.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would simply be stuck with whomever was chosen, and would be forced to make things work, at least as long as the two are under contract in Oklahoma City.
According to Presti, however, that wasn’t entirely the case.
While he may not have discussed specific candidates with his players, Presti insists that he, Durant and Westbrook were all on the same page in terms of the qualities they would look for in the team’s next head coach.
There was a report that management consulted with Kevin Durant on the hiring of coach Donovan but not with Russell Westbrook and Westbrook is now upset with the organization because of it. Is there any truth to that report, and have you spoken to Westbrook since Donovan was hired to get a sense of what he’s feeling?
As I have stated before, I do not feel it is in the best interest of the guys, or team collectively, if we were to poll our players in regards to specific personnel or staff decisions. However, we have spent a significant amount of time over the last seven-plus seasons discussing, observing and defining our culture with our players, which we feel is important given their role in building the identity for the Thunder. One aspect of this recent process was to have specific conversations with several core members of the program, including Kevin and Russell, regarding important qualities that should be considered in looking for our next head coach. Fortunately, our continuity and communication over the years in combination with our more recent discussions gave us an understanding that there is an alignment with regards to the qualities that we felt were important to our progression and evolution. Multiple people within the organization have been in contact with Russ and he will be in town later this week to meet with the staff.
It would be foolish not to have cursory discussions with both Durant and Westbrook, considering each player’s ability to bolt the franchise in free agency in the coming seasons.
The reality is that the Thunder hit the jackpot in drafting two guys who are now unquestionably on the list of the league’s top 10 players, and with star free agents not exactly lining up to come play in Oklahoma City, the franchise needs to do everything in its power to entice them to re-sign — and that includes consulting them on the team’s next coaching hire, at least in a minimal capacity.