NBA

NBA AM: Is Billy Donovan Next In OKC?

The Thunder are in the market for a new head coach, could it be Florida’s Billy Donovan?… Scott Skiles isn’t lobbying for a job… Is Rondo done in Dallas?

Steve Kyler profile picture
Updated 2 months ago on
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Brooks Out, Donovan Next?:  The Oklahoma City Thunder decided to part ways with long-time head coach Scott Brooks yesterday, and while the move was characterized as a catalyst for change and evolution for the organization, it seems that the Thunder may have a shorter list of would-be candidates than anyone may want to admit at this point.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports pegs Florida’s Billy Donovan as the next name on the Thunder list, while Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv in New York has pegged UCONN coach Kevin Ollie as “listening.”

So why was Brooks really fired? Simply stated, it was time to do a new deal for Brooks and where he was likely headed in terms of annual salary and years on a new deal were likely more than the Thunder, namely GM Sam Presti, were going to agree to.

Presti, who is facing the most important offseason of his career, has to get all the moves right this summer and there was a sense that while Brooks was the right coach to win the division, there was doubt he was the right coach to steer the team to another NBA Finals run and an eventual championship, mainly because his voice and what was needed for the Thunder may have run its course. Combine that with needing a new contract and the math simply didn’t work out.

Presti could not have been more complimentary about Brooks in his press conference last night and wanted it made very clear that the decision to part ways with Brooks was not about this past season, rather a feeling that the team needed to evolve.

While a number of names have been linked to the Thunder, the two college names have drawn the most attention.

Presti tried to quell the notion last night that the team had started conversations with anyone; there still remains a sense that Ollie and Donovan are the primary targets.

Donovan had been restricted from joining the NBA for the term of the contract he backed out of with the Orlando Magic several years ago, but is now free to explore his options. Donovan recently agreed to restructure his contract, which increased his compensation marginally and added an additional year to the deal. However, his deal still has a $500,000 NBA out-clause.

Ollie, for his part, inked a new long-term deal with UCONN last year and his deal has a sliding buyout clause based on when he notifies the team. It’s believed to exit the UCONN contract now would cost roughly $5 million and while that number is easily absorbed by the Thunder, who have no restrictions on what they can pay their next head coach, it is a notable hindrance to an easy deal.

Ollie has issued a couple of statements denying that he’s looking for another job. However, skeptics have pointed to the wording he used as cover should he elect to explore options.

Presti has said there will be no artificial time line on a new coaching hire, so the Thunder join the fray of teams looking for coaches.

Skiles Isn’t Lobbying For A Job:  As is often the case with NBA rumors and the sewing circle of NBA information that powers it, sometimes stories take on a life of their own. In the case of former NBA head coach Scott Skiles, he has been in the cross hairs of a narrative that may not fit the facts.

For some time, the story has been that the Orlando Magic and their ownership were enamored with Skiles as a potential hire for their coaching job and while that may well turn out to be true, what’s surfacing is that some of the details associated with Skiles may not be.

According to league sources close to both situations, the Magic have not held talks – informal or otherwise – with anyone and while Skiles is still very interested in coaching in the NBA, he is not actively seeking or campaigning for a job anywhere, including Orlando.

The other narrative that’s been talked about a lot (including here) is the notion that wherever Skiles coaches next he would seek oversight of basketball operations; however, that too has been squashed by sources close to the situation, saying that having power or control is not a pre-requisite to accepting a job.

The Magic are actively considering coaching candidates, with current interim head coach James Borrego still said to be a viable candidate, but that his candidacy would be part of a larger and wider search to ensure the Magic select a coach for the future goal of the post-season and eventually competing for a championship.

Like Borrego, Skiles is viewed internally as an attractive candidate, but according to sources, that process has not started yet for the Magic and they will not make a hasty decision or try and rush the process artificially.

The Magic are expected to conduct a wide search before making a decision on their coaching job.

The availability of Thunder coach Scott Brooks may change the dynamic of Orlando’s search, as he is viewed as a perfect fit for the Magic’s plan, the question becomes with the Denver Nuggets who are in a similar situation poach him away?

Rondo Finished In Dallas?:  The Dallas Mavericks have a long history of gambles. If there is one team that is poised to make a mid-season move every year, it is usually Dallas.

This year, the Mavericks rolled the mid-season dice on point guard Rajon Rondo and yesterday those dice came up snake eyes.

The Mavericks announced that Rondo, who has been a terrible fit all year, would likely miss the balance of the season due to a back injury and that he would be away from the team seeking medical opinions.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was asked directly if he expected Rondo in a Mavericks uniform again and answered bluntly: “No, I don’t.”

Carlisle tried to defuse what was clearly a negative shot at his would-be free agent point guard.

“I like Rondo,” Carlisle said to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “My relationship with him was professional. We learned a lot going through this, trying to make this thing work. It being an injury is something we didn’t want.”

“He is seeking additional medical opinions,” Carlisle added. “For now, he will not be around the team. I understand the announcement that’s been made is going to have different interpretations. I’m giving you our interpretation of it. This is fact. From here, we’re moving forward. We’ve got a series to win. We got to win Game 3 with the guys we have.”

There has been a running narrative that Rondo was not looking to re-sign in Dallas and has made no secret of that around the team. The belief is that Rondo wants to join good friend Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles with the Lakers. However, given how he has handled his situation in Dallas, is he really the player he once was and at what price?

Sources close to Rondo have said the fit in Dallas was never ideal and that all parties were trying to make the best of an awkward situation. It seems that situation has come to an end.

The Mavericks are down 0-2 to the Houston Rockets and face a must-win situation on Friday at home to have any shot at staying alive in the series.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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