OKC Thunder: Florida Gators to dedicate Exactech Arena ‘Billy Donovan Court’

JANUARY 2: Head coach of the OKC Thunder Billy Donovan talks with his players before the start of their game against the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
JANUARY 2: Head coach of the OKC Thunder Billy Donovan talks with his players before the start of their game against the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

Billy Donovan is having a breakthrough season with the OKC Thunder and this weekend is set to receive a prestigious honor from the Florida Gators.

In his fifth season as the Head Coach of the OKC Thunder, Billy Donovan certainly has experienced the extreme highs and lows of the NBA. When hired he arguably had two of the NBA’s top five talents of that time in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

In his first year at the helm, Donovan witnessed his club take a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before the bottom fell out.

His second season was the ‘Year of Westbrook’ as the former OKC Thunder superstar went on a historic march to win Most Valuable Player behind an unparalleled triple-double season. Year’s three and four were punctuated by the Thunder bringing in Paul George with the hopes of reclaiming the West.

Despite the obvious talent on the roster, the team functioned more as an iso based club running through their superstars and never were able to fully recognize the type of success of the KD-Russ era. Three successive first-round playoff exits followed.

This past offseason prior to the seismic shift of the franchise to move away from the superstar era there were many calling for Donovan’s head on a platter. In fairness, the team’s iso-centric approach to offense was inevitably going to fall on the coach’s shoulders for his apparent inability to adapt.

General Manager, Sam Presti remained resolute in his commitment to Donovan. Subsequently, the coach entered this season with a club more focused on a team structure and style as opposed to one or two individuals. The three point guard lineup, increased ball and player movement and other tweaks stand out as obvious Donovan improvements to the offensive system.

In hindsight, Donovan is finally being able to showcase where his true talents lie. Perhaps it was unfair to point the finger solely at Donovan for the club’s failures. Or possibly, Donovan was unable to get buy-in from the former roster.

Whatever the case, many of us (raises hand) are having to recall there was more to Donovan than met the eye in his first four seasons in Oklahoma City. Moreover, this iteration of the OKC Thunder is allowing Donovan to be the type of coach many expected to see upon his hiring.

Donovan honed his skills in the NCAA spending 19 seasons at the University of Florida and two years at Marshall. During his time with the Gators, Billy D coached his 2006 and 2007 teams to back to back NCAA Championship Titles.  Most impressively, Florida had winning seasons in 16 of his 19 years at the helm.

As per Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript:

"Donovan did quite well for himself over those years, leaving for the NBA after compiling a record of 467-186 that included 16 straight postseason appearances, 13 NCAA tournaments, two national championships, an additional Final Four appearance and three other trips to the Elite Eight."

More from Thunderous Intentions

As for the break, Donovan will travel to Florida where he’ll receive an amazing honor this weekend. On Saturday, the Gators will play Vanderbilt.

Prior to that game, Exactech Arena will be dedicated “Billy Donovan Court”.  Horning’s article above provides the details and Donovan’s thoughts on the dedication.

Tonight the OKC Thunder will play their 55th game versus the Pelicans and final match prior to the All-Star Break.

Their record through 54 games is 32-22. A season ago with two superstars and grandiose expectations, the Thunder had a 35-19 through 54 games.

By virtue of the Mavericks win over the Kings Wednesday, they pushed past OKC to reclaim the sixth seed. If the Thunder win tonight, they’ll remain in seventh although the teams will have the same record.

Dallas currently holds a better record against arguably a much easier division which is the secondary tiebreaker after team’s records versus each other. Since the Mavericks and Thunder have each won once the final game of the season looms as one that could have major seeding implications.

Next. Billy Donovan demonstrates how coaching affects winning. dark

Regardless of where the OKC Thunder finish, this season is already proving to be one where Billy Donovan’s imprint is more profound than any of his four prior seasons.