There is a segment of Thunder fans who want Billy Donovan gone as coach. The reason? The team doesn’t play within a team system the way that the Warriors or Celtics or the Utah Jazz — the squad that eliminated the Thunder in the first round — do. The Thunder’s system is Russell Westbrook, and that system has a ceiling.
However, is that really Billy Donovan’s fault? Could John Wooden or Red Auerbach or Phil Jackson rein in the wild stallion that is Westbrook?
The person who has the final say on this, Thunder GM Sam Presti, sides with Donovan and said the coach will be back in OKC next season.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, in part because Donovan and Presti have a long relationship, and in part because Donovan still has a couple of years left on his contract.
One of the reasons Donovan was brought in is players related to him, spoke to him, and listened to him. Undoubtedly Donovan needs to turn those skills up on Westbrook and get him to see the need to find ways to better lift the team up. Westbrook has a Kobe-like mentality of “I’m the best option always” and that led to him using a ridiculously high 38 percent of the Thunder’s possessions in the playoffs when he was on the court, and him taking 43 shots in the deciding game. Kobe, like Michael Jordan before him, was a gunner at heart but learned how to involve and lead a team to lift them up (even though both men had to learn some of those lessons the hard way). Maybe the loss to Utah makes Westbrook more open to a more movement based offense — which is what Donovan prefers to run.
If the Thunder fall short of expectations next season, Donovan’s seat should get warm. Of course, what those expectations will be will depend on what is going to be a wild offseason in OKC.