‘Billy has won ev­ery­where’

7 things to know about new coach Billy Dono­van, in­clud­ing his brief stint onWall Street and close ties to Rick Pitino

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - SCOREBOARD - By Ja­mal Col­lier

In his state­ment an­nounc­ing Billy Dono­van as the 21st head coach in Chicago Bulls his­tory, vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions Ar­turas Kar­niso­vas em­pha­sized the suc­cess Dono­van en­joyed in his bas­ket­ball ca­reer.

From his Fi­nal Four ap­pear­ance as a player at Prov­i­dence, brief but suc­cess­ful coach­ing stop at Mar­shall, pair of na­tional cham­pi­onships and decades of dom­i­nance at Florida and five con­sec­u­tive play­off ap­pear­ances with the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der, Dono­van has a long track record ofwin­ning.

“Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won ev­ery­where his ca­reer has taken him,” Kar­niso­vas said. “We hope that will con­tinue here in Chicago.”

The Bulls, who had not hired a coach with pre­vi­ous NBA head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence since 2003, bring in a man with a re­sume as lengthy and im­pres­sive as any in the field. Here are seven things to know about Dono­van:

1. He was start­ing point guard for Prov­i­dence’s 1987 Fi­nal Four run:

Dono­van grew up on Long Is­land, N.Y., where bas­ket­ball be­came a part of his daily life at an early age. His fa­ther, Bill Sr., played four years at Bos­ton Col­lege and coached his son’s teams through ele­men­tary school.

In high school, Dono­van earned first team All-Long Is­land hon­ors in his ju­nior and se­nior sea­sons and led Long Is­land Catholic High School to a state championsh­ip as a se­nior.

That earned him a schol­ar­ship to Prov­i­dence. He played four sea­sons there but ex­celed once Rick Pitino be­came the coach dur­ing his ju­nior year.

In his se­nior year in 1986-87, Dono­van av­er­aged 20.6 points and was named All-Big East first team, honor­able men­tion All-Amer­i­can and South­east Re­gional most out­stand­ing player while lead­ing the Fri­ars to the Fi­nal Four.

2. He­briefly playedin the NBA: Dono­van’s suc­cess­ful col­lege ca­reer earned him an ab­bre­vi­ated stint in the NBA. The Jazz drafted him in the third round 1987 but waived him be­fore the sea­son started.

He found a spot with his home­town team, the New York Knicks and a fa­mil­iar face in Pitino, who left Prov­i­dence af­ter the Fi­nal Four run to coach the Knicks. Dono­van ap­peared in 44 games off the bench, but his im­pact was un­re­mark­able, av­er­ag­ing 2.4 points and 2 as­sists. But he formed a strong re­la­tion­ship with Pitino, which­con­tin­ues to­day.

“He’s prob­a­bly — of all the play­ers I’ve coached, of all the peo­ple that have worked with me — Billy Dono­van or FrankVo­gel are the two most self­less in­di­vid­u­als I’ve been around,” Pitino said dur­ing an in­ter­viewWed­nes­day onWSCRAM67­0. “It’s never — and I mean never, not even 1% — about them. It’s al­ways about the play­ers and the team. So he’s a per­fect fit for the mod­ern NBA bas­ket­ball player.”

3. Dono­vanspent­timeas a stock bro­ker on Wall

Street: Af­ter a sea­son with the Knicks and bounc­ing around with a few CBA teams, Dono­van left bas­ket­ball and started on a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path — at an in­vest­ment bank­ing firm on Wall Street. And he hated it.

Dono­van es­ti­mated he lasted only about five months be­fore he linked back up with Pitino, who was headed to Ken­tucky to take its coach­ing job.

Pitino of­fered Dono­van a job as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant, and Dono­van even­tu­ally rose to top as­sis­tant dur­ing the team’s Fi­nal Four run in 1993 and had a hand in re­cruit­ing the ros­ter that won the 1996 na­tional championsh­ip. But Dono­van had earned a shot at lead­ing his own team be­fore the ti­tle team.

4. He helped turn Mar­shall around in only two sea­sons:

In 1994, Dono­van be­came the youngest head coach in Di­vi­sion I bas­ket­ball at 28 years old.

His im­pact on the pro­gram was in­stant. The year be­fore Dono­van ar­rived, Mar­shall’s bas­ket­ball team

fin­ished 9-18. In his first sea­son as their coach, they flipped that record to 18-9, their high­est win to­tal in seven years. Dono­van spent only two years with the Thun­der­ing Herd but he won at an im­pres­sive rate, go­ing 35-20 (.636) and earn­ing a ca­reer-defin­ing job at Florida.

5. He trans­formed Florida into a na­tional pow­er­house:

Few coaches in the his­tory of col­lege bas­ket­ball have had as much suc­cess as Dono­van en­joyed dur­ing his 19-year run at Florida.

He ar­rived to a foot­ball school and trans­formed its bas­ket­ball pro­gram into a na­tional power— 467 vic­to­ries and a .715 win­ning per­cent­age, mak­ing the Fi­nal Four four times and win­ning back-to-back na­tional cham­pi­onships in 2006 and ’07. No men’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram had won con­sec­u­tive ti­tles since Duke in 1991 and ’92. Dono­van­wonat least 20 games in 16 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons and won 30 games three times. In­clud­ing his time at Mar

shall, he be­came the sec­ond-youngest coach in NCAA his­tory to win 500 games.

“Coach Dono­van is some­body who is go­ing to hold his play­ers ac­count­able and is some­body who can re­late to his play­ers while keep­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the guys,” for­mer Bulls cen­ter Joakim Noah, who played for Dono­van on those back-to-back na­tional championsh­ip teams, told NBC Sports Chicago.

“That’s a tough bal­ance. But he’s proven he’s been able to do it time and time again. He’s some­body that I re­ally re­spect. And I couldn’t be hap­pier for the ChicagoBul­ls to have such a great coach. What a big hire.”

6. He al­most jumped to the NBA with the Magic in 2007:

As his pro­file con­tin­ued to rise at Florida, the chance to coach in the NBA be­came more tempt­ing for Dono­van.

He­n­ear­ly­was lured away in 2007 af­ter he agreed to be­come the Or­lando Magic’s coach and signed a five-year, $27.5 mil­lion con­tract. A few days later, how­ever, Dono­van be­gan hav­ing sec­ond thoughts and asked out of his con­tract. TheMagic agreed to re­lease him from the deal. He was free to re­turn to Florida as long as he agreed not to coach in the NBA for five years.

7. He­won a lot of reg­u­larsea­son games with the Thun­der:

Dono­van­even­tu­al­ly­moved on to theNBAin 2015 when he was named Thun­der coach. In five sea­sons in Ok­la­homa City, he racked up wins at an im­pres­sive rate.

Dono­van’s .608 win­ning per­cent­age is the 16th-best mark in NBA his­tory (min­i­mum 100 games), and among ac­tive coaches he trails only the Rap­tors’Nick Nurse (.721), War­riors’ SteveKerr (.709) and Spurs’ Greg Popovich (.675). It’s why Dono­van was ar­guably the best can­di­date avail­able on the coach­ing mar­ket. Coach­eswith such a his­tory of suc­cess do not usu­ally be­come avail­able. Af­ter guid­ing an over­achiev­ing Thun­der team to the play­offs this sea­son, he was named the 2019-20 co-re­cip­i­ent of the Coach of the Year award — along with the Bucks’ Mike Bu­den­holzer — by his peers in the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion.

The ros­ters Dono­van coached in Ok­la­homa City changed over the years but al­ways came­with some star power, in­clud­ing Kevin Du­rant in his first sea­son, Rus­sell West­brook dur­ing his best sea­sons and Chris Paul this sea­son. The Bulls do not have a play­er­with as much tal­ent as Dono­van coached through­out his NBA ca­reer, but his re­sume is filled with stops at which he has got­ten more with less.


New Bulls coach Billy Dono­van led the Thun­der to the play­offs in each of his five sea­sons there.

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