By Michael Doutey
The Woj Bomb on Monday morning announcing that the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Michigan’s basketball coach, John Beilein, made most NBA fans raise an eyebrow at the surprising hire. The news probably wasn’t a huge topic of conversation around Oklahoma City. I don’t think Thunder fans were talking at the water cooler on Monday discussing how this hire effects the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But Tuesday BetOnline.ag put out odds for the next Michigan head basketball coach. And wouldn’t you know, Billy Donovan’s name popped up high on that list. It really isn’t surprising. When the Indiana job opened up, rumors swirled that Donovan was in Bloomington interviewing for the Hoosiers opening. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
But this is a little different. Remember back to Sam Presti’s end of the season hour-long meeting with the OKC media. Presti was asked about the future of Donovan and the team but Presti didn’t give the most concrete of answers.
“I wouldn’t expect anything to change,” Presti said. “There’s nobody who works harder than him.”
When pressed on the matter, Presti said the same thing.
“We anticipate Billy being back,” said Presti. “If anything would have changed on that, we would have let you guys know.”
While it seems that Donovan is going to be back, those weren’t definitive statements. There is some wiggle room.
It could be that the wiggle room wasn’t for Presti or the Thunder but for Donovan. The Thunder picked up the team option on Donovan’s final year of his contract back on December 17th after a strong start to the season.
Even though the Thunder picked up his final season, that doesn’t mean Donovan has much job security. In fact, he hardly has any. If the Thunder doesn’t improve from the past two seasons then there will be no expectation that Donovan will be re-signed to coach OKC at the end of next season. That’s not a comfortable place for a coach to be in, especially with this flawed roster.
So if Michigan, who has been to two Final Fours in the past six years and five Sweet Sixteen’s over that same period, offered Donovan a multi-year deal that a two-time National Champion coach would command, it would be hard for me to believe that Billy wouldn’t seriously consider taking the job.
He could go back to college and be in complete control over a program again. His voice would be the loudest in the room. He wouldn’t have to cater to Russell Westbrook. He wouldn’t have to manage NBA egos.
But he would have to recruit again. He would have to jump back into the mess of the NCAA and the college basketball scandal. Maybe he left Florida to stay in the NBA, even if the Thunder isn’t his only stop.
All of this is conjecture, of course. Just like the odds that have Donovan so high on their list. Sure, it makes sense and that is what Vegas is looking for. It appears to have some logic so that people will put some money down and bet on it. That is what the foundation of Vegas has been built on and why they are constantly building brand new buildings.
But there isn’t anything actually to it. There have been no reports that Donovan is interested in the job. There have been no reports that Michigan is interested in Donovan.
There isn’t a real threat that Donovan would be hired away. And while it does make sense, for now, there is nothing to it. But with the way Presti answered questions about the future of Billy in OKC and now that Donovan’s name is attached to the odds of being named Michigan’s next head coach, maybe we should keep an eye on the Wolverines head coaching search, even if nothing comes of it.