Donovan has never had a challenge quite like his new one with the Bulls

  • Former Bull Joakim Noah played for Billy Donovan at Florida (including here in 2007), and called his former coach this week. Donovan said Noah had good things to say about the Bulls' organization and the city of Chicago.

    Former Bull Joakim Noah played for Billy Donovan at Florida (including here in 2007), and called his former coach this week. Donovan said Noah had good things to say about the Bulls' organization and the city of Chicago. Associated Press

Updated 9/25/2020 12:17 PM

During the 19 years he spent coaching at Florida, Billy Donovan did a nice job of sending players to the NBA, considering he didn't get many top-10 recruits.

The nucleus of the Gators' two-time national championship team -- Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah -- was ranked Nos. 23, 42 and 73 in the country, respectively, by 247Sports.


Some other Donovan-coached prospects were Bradley Beal, Mike Miller, David Lee, Udonis Haslem, Chandler Parsons, Marreese Speights and Matt Bonner. He had point guard Jason Williams at both Marshall and Florida.

So Donovan has developed college talent.

His teams in Oklahoma City came stocked with superstars, between Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Chris Paul.

His first Bulls team will be a new experience, a young team with no stars and virtually no winning experience in the NBA.

"I think one of the most impressive jobs he did was last year," Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said. "His ability to adapt, to adjust, to change things, based on his roster and what he has was really impressive."

Last year's Thunder team traded Westbrook and George, but finished as the No. 5 seed in the West and took Houston to seven games in the playoffs.

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Donovan's most obvious Bulls connection is Noah, who played here from 2007 to 2016 and always raved about his college coach.

"Actually, I spoke to Joakim (Wednesday)," Donovan said. "He called me, we talked for a while. He had unbelievable things to say about the city of Chicago. He had incredible things to say about the organization. He obviously spent the majority of his career in Chicago, loved every minute of it.

"He's actually talked about coming back and doing charity work for the Bulls, maybe later in his career. I think he's probably going to evaluate what the next step for himself is as a player, I think he's probably looking at that right now, what that looks like with the Clippers. But I'm obviously close to him and he's a great guy and great competitor."

Current Bulls guard Zach LaVine said the first thing he did after finding out Donovan was his new coach was ask for a phone number.

"I was extremely happy," LaVine said. "It was something that I think a lot of people didn't see coming. I think it just shows what Arturas and Marc (Eversley) are bringing to the table on uplifting the franchise right now."

The Bulls convened for a two-week minicamp this week at the Advocate Center, which the NBA approved for the losing teams that weren't invited to the Orlando bubble. The Bulls were required to create a bubble-type atmosphere, with players sequestered at a downtown hotel when they're not at the facility.


It appears everyone who finished last season with the Bulls is participating, other than free agent guard Kris Dunn. Several Windy City Bulls are at the camp as well.

Because of the quarantine guidelines, Donovan is not planning to join the Bulls during the camp. No one is certain when the next NBA season will start, but Commissioner Adam Silver has already suggested it might not be until 2021.

"We just haven't played in six months," LaVine said. "It's tough. I've already missed out on a year of basketball from (knee) injury. It takes time to get that rhythm and things back.

"So I think we're doing a good thing here of being able to just come together as a team and get some of the camaraderie again and also just play and have a basketball in your hand in a team setting."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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