After Billy Donovan and the Thunder mutually decided to part ways (amicably), another very important decision was added to OKC’s offseason “to do” list; finding their next head coach. According to reports, Donovan and the Thunder parted in large part due to uncertainty of the team’s timeline and future roster. With the Thunder facing an inevitable rebuild, the start of which depends on some other unknowns (such as when they will trade Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, Steven Adams, etc.), it was not crystal clear just how competitive the next couple of seasons would be for OKC. Donovan came to the league to chase titles with a championship level roster (Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook), not guide a team through a rebuild. The Thunder did offer him a two-year deal to return, as they liked him both as a coach and a person, but he was needing something else at this stage of his career.
The coaching search has been ongoing for quite some time now, as the Thunder have indicated a desire to be painstakingly thorough in their evaluations and process, leaving no stone unturned, and casting a wide net for potential candidates. In regards to a concrete timetable for a hire to be completed, there remains the distinct possibility that they might not even have their decision finalized before the NBA Draft next month (November 18). As Presti indicated at his press conference, they want to make sure they get this one right, and are in no rush. As a fan hungry for news, it stinks to wait, but patience is key here.
The Thunder are a vault tight organization, with secrets and rumors rarely getting out about their plans. However, there have been a few reported coaching names linked to Oklahoma City: Spurs assistant Will Hardy, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld, Jr., NBL coach (Australia) Will Weaver, former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Heat assistant Dan Craig (since hired as an assistant with the Clippers), and OKC assistant Brian Keefe.
With the exception of Atkinson, all of these candidates, if hired, would be first time NBA head coaches. Remember that the uncertainty of the team’s rebuilding timeline will, like it did with Donovan, clash with a coach’s desire to be competitive in the short-term. Clearly, OKC is looking for someone young, but respected, who can grow with the team through the rebuild.
Despite this age profile, OKC will still seek a candidate that embodies their cultural values and philosophies, has an impeccable personal reputation, is motivated, patient, develops the young talent on the roster, displays positive leadership, while enduring the looming rebuild, (lots of losses and growing pains inbound). Whomever they decide to hire (whether from the names listed above or not), you can be sure that Presti will have exhausted all options and chosen who he thought was the absolute best fit for the job.