OKC Coaching Search: Trade Deadline Could Reveal Strategy

The firing of Scott Brooks has set a traditionally-stable franchise on its ear. Perhaps no other team has embraced standing pat as completely as the Oklahoma City Thunder, lending to some frustration among the team’s fans. They’ve resisted change so completely, some wondered if they were capable of it at all.

Well, this year has certainly shown that the Thunder can and will make changes they think are necessary.

Brooks’ firing may or may not be the right move but it was probably a necessary one. Similarly, the team didn’t hesitate to turn things around at this year’s NBA trade deadline, dealing away key role players and draft picks to strengthen their rotation.

Moreover, these moves may have more in common that just a willingness, as The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel points out, to make “a change for changes sake.”

Leading up to the trade deadline, many assumed that GM Sam Presti would follow the same process as he has in year’s past: look in the bargain bin for a few role players, make a few inquiries and, ultimately, watch as the deadline came and went. Rumors had circulated for some time that the Thunder were looking to acquire Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez. Deals involving a third team were laid out by media insiders and clearly there was fire surrounding this particularly smoke.

But, when talks for Lopez broke down as the deadline approached, no one was completely surprised.

Until they were totally shocked by Presti’s unloading of Reggie Jackson, Kendrick Perkins, and other parts to acquire Enes Kanter and several key role players.

And here’s where the team’s coaching search could be eerily similar. Reports have already linked at least two candidates – Billy Donovan of the University of Florida and UConn’s Kevin Ollie – to the team. Donovan has strong ties to Presti while Ollie, who denied any interest earlier Wednesday, has since changed his tune following the news of Brooks’ termination.

This nugget from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst would indicate that hiring Donovan seems like a likely option:

As for Ollie, the evidence is even more concrete:

But here’s the rub: what if, like the alleged deal that was already in place for Lopez, the choice of either Donovan or Ollie is merely to throw everyone off Presti’s true intentions? Could another dark horse candidate, from either the collegiate or professional ranks, be the real top candidate for the job?

Presti is scheduled to meet the press at 7 p.m. CST on Wednesday and will likely face questions about any and all rumors at that time. But, in typical fashion, he’s not going to reveal anything of a real, substantial nature at this time. In fact, he might do the opposite – if the trade deadline was any indication, he might purposely steer media into thinking a choice (either Ollie or Donovan) had already been made while pursuing someone else entirely.

It’s why Presti is one of the best at his job, even if it is perceived by many as slightly paranoid behavior. You never know exactly what he’s thinking and he prefers it that way.

But his recent trades show there’s a possibility of a pattern and that’s better than nothing.