Can Billy Donovan prove he deserves a clean slate with the OKC Thunder?

Head coach Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Head coach Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Head Coach Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

How did we get here with Billy Donovan?

By now, a lot of people have already rolled their eyes countless times, their hatred for Billy Donovan washing over them, and if I was standing on a stage reading this article aloud as Shakespeare would in yesteryear, I would be dodging flying tomatoes flung from a displeased crowd of Thunder jesters.

But let’s really take a step back, breath, and evaluate the quandary.

To this point in his career, Billy Donovan roams the sideline with an overall record in the National Basketball Association of 199-129, his next win marking his 200th. For reference, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in their prime and for the entire span, in Scott Brooks‘ first four seasons at the helm for the Thunder, he won 212 games. (Note: In Brooks’ second year the NBA played a shortened season (66 games) due to a work stoppage lockout.)

But how did we get here? What was the turning point? Why does everyone hate Billy Donovan?

Billy Donovan was hired to be the third head coach of the OKC Thunder by Sam Presti on April 30th, 2015 after flirting with the Orlando Magic for a few years while at the University of Florida, Donovan was finally ready to make the NBA leap.

Now, hop into a time machine with me, friends. Let’s go back to the summer of 2015 and into his rookie coaching season.

Donovan’s first team in Loud City was littered with talent including superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, and Dion Waiters, not to mention Mitch McGary (Don’t laugh, okay? He could’ve been special) and Andre Roberson.

However, everyone knew the team was powered by Westbrook and Durant, and the tandem took the 73 win Golden State Warriors to the wire in a seven-game series before blowing a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Throughout the course of the postseason, Donovan was praised for his game-to-game adjustments and his ability to coach within a series.

That summer, Kevin Durant was set to hit the open market but everyone expected the dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook to run it back for another year. Even the most pessimistic OKC Thunder fans had no worries about Durant leaving. Instead, even the most pessimistic fans were predicting that he would sign a popular one year deal and leave town in the same summer as Russell Westbrook when Westbrook was available to hit the open market the very next offseason.

There was also reports that Al Horford was set to join the fold and reunite with his college coach and give the OKC Thunder a three-headed monster.