Billy Donovan has become the third head coach in Thunder history after spending the past 19 years at the University of Florida where he led the Gators to two National Championships and four trips to the Final Four while amassing a record of 467-186 (.715).
“We are thrilled to welcome Billy and his family to the Oklahoma City Thunder organization. When we began the process of identifying the next head coach of the Thunder, we started with a vision and the identifiable qualities that we felt were necessary for our organization as well as the ever-evolving role of the head coach in today’s . We wanted to identify a person with the traits associated with high achieving leaders in their respective fields: a continuous learning mentality, the ability to adapt, evolve and innovate, intrinsically motivated, humility, and great tactical competence,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti says. “While we created a comprehensive analysis regarding the qualities we were looking for, it became quite evident that Billy was the ideal fit for the Thunder as we look to transition our team into the future. Billy has achieved an incredible level of success and experience within his 21 years as a head coach and has shown the unique ability to not only create but sustain an elite program. His emotional intelligence, commitment to the concept of team, and relentless approach to incremental improvement have allowed him to bring his players together and establish lasting relationships through competitive success.”
During his tenure at Florida, Donovan led the program to 16 straight 20-win seasons, three 30-win seasons, 17 consecutive trips to the postseason and six Championships. Under Donovan, Florida has advanced to the Elite Eight in six of the past 10 seasons.
“We warmly welcome Billy and his family to Oklahoma City,” says Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder chairman. “He is the perfect fit for our organization and for our community and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.”
After winning back-to-back national championships (2006 and 2007), Donovan led Florida to 18 straight postseason wins, the longest run for any program since John Wooden led to 28 straight postseason wins. This past season, Donovan became the second youngest coach in history (Bob Knight) to claim 500 career wins.
“I am honored and humbled to be named the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation,” says Donovan. “The Thunder represents so many of the values that I embrace as a head coach; the commitment to the team above oneself, the dedicated pursuit of excellence, the commitment to organizational culture, the identity they have established and the fact that the Thunder and the community are so intricately woven into the fabric of one another. To have the ability to work with such a talented and high character group of players is also rare, and I am excited to forge ahead creating those relationships. It is of course bittersweet as the University of Florida will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my family’s.”
Donavan has been the recipient of numerous collegiate coaching awards including .com’s National Coach of the Year (2001), the Wooden Award’s “Legends of Coaching” Honor (2010) and Coach of the Year (2011, 2013, 2014).
In addition to his responsibilities at Florida, Donovan has served as head coach of Basketball’s U18 and U19 National Teams in each of the last three summers. As a head coach with , Donavan’s teams have captured three gold medals while going a perfect 19-0 during national team competition. Prior to leading the 2014 Americas U18 Team to the gold medal last summer in Colorado Springs, CO, Donovan guided the 2013 U19 World Championship Team to a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal in Prague, Czech Republic and the 2012 U18 National Team to a 5-0 slate and gold in Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil.
Donovan’s coaching experience dates back to the 1989-90 season where he served as a graduate assistant coach at Kentucky. After five years with the Wildcats, Donovan was hired as head coach at Marshall where he spent two years before leaving for Florida.
Prior to joining the coaching ranks, Donovan enjoyed a four-year playing career at Providence where he helped lead the Friars to their best season in school history and a trip to the Final Four in 1987. In addition, Donovan appeared in 44 games as a member of the New York Knicks during the 1987-88 season.