Donovan's surprise availability may have prompted change in Chicago Bulls' plans
The Bulls decided to go with experience on the bench. Now will they be able to add any experience to the roster?
The coaching search came to an end Tuesday with the announcement that the Bulls hired Billy Donovan, the former Oklahoma City Thunder boss who also coached Joakim Noah's two-time NCAA champion Florida Gators.
The Thunder was one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season, finishing 44-28 after trading away Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Following a narrow playoff loss to Houston, Donovan and OKC announced a mutual parting of ways because the Thunder decided to rebuild for economic reasons.
Of course, Donovan is likely aware the Bulls are three years into a disappointing rebuild of their own. So maybe their new coach sees some potential in Chicago.
This is the first significant addition to the coaching staff for new vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.
"The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level," Karnisovas said of Donovan in a team statement. "We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago."
The basic question facing Karnisovas was whether to hire a promising NBA assistant as head coach or turn to a veteran with experience. Denver's Wes Unseld Jr. and Philadelphia's Ime Udoka were thought to be front-runners if the Bulls went with a current assistant coach, though they interviewed a number of candidates.
One nagging question had to be whether a young assistant would be an upgrade over Jim Boylen, a first-time head coach who spent more than 20 years as an NBA assistant. It's possible Karnisovas changed direction when Donovan unexpectedly became available.
Donovan, 55, had an eventful five seasons in Oklahoma City. His first year on the job was the last with Kevin Durant in town and the Thunder had Golden State on the ropes in the Western Conference finals before losing in seven games.
Then came three years of first-round losses with Westbrook, first paired with Victor Oladipo, then George. OKC appeared headed for a rebuild this season, but instead was the No. 5 seed in the West behind veteran point guard Chris Paul.
Is there a chance Paul will follow Donovan to the Bulls? It's conceivable, but it would require a large financial commitment from the Bulls. Paul has two years left on his contract, at a salary of $44 million in 2021-22.
Even if the Bulls could convince the Thunder to take the expiring contracts of Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio, along with maybe Tomas Satoransky, the second year of Paul's deal would wipe out cap space the Bulls expect to have in 2021.
A more likely scenario is the Bulls sit tight with what they've got and gear up for some roster additions in 2021.
Donovan, a native of Rockville Centre, New York, became a household name as the point guard who led Rick Pitino's Providence Friars to the Final Four in 1987.
Donovan was head coach at Florida for 19 seasons, winning NCAA titles in 2006 and '07 with the group led by Noah and Al Horford. He left Florida in 2015 to join the Thunder.
The Bulls began a two-week minicamp Tuesday, designed to give teams that weren't invited to the NBA's Orlando bubble experience a chance to work together.
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