The Oklahoma City Thunder have played in three of the last four – soon to be three of the last five – Western Conference Finals. They’ve yet to win a title, but they’re hoping Billy Donovan can lead them to one, even though he’s never coached a day in the NBA.
Is that possible? Can Donovan lead an NBA team to a championship?
“(The hire) was a surprise to me,” former NBA player and current Suns television analyst Eddie Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I don’t mind a coach, especially from the college level if he’s had success, coming to the NBA. But if he has to prove . . . he’s a good coach, then take a team that doesn’t have superstars. Take a team where you got to build. I think he can come in and he can have success in Oklahoma City because he has Kevin Durant and he has Russell Westbrook. And so for me, being a former player, being around the league as long as I have, and now having a lot of friends that I played against (and) competed against that are assistant coaches in the NBA, I just frown upon it. I frown upon those guys not getting the opportunity to get their chance. And if they do get their chance, don’t give them a team that’s probably built to lose. That’s the only issue that I have with that.
“Now, in saying that, look, (Donovan) has had a tremendous career,” Johnson continued. “He’s won championships. So I can’t knock his coaching ability, but I just knock the process of not interviewing (certain people) and just all of a sudden deicing that’s your guy and not giving anyone else a chance.”
Speaking of quality coaches, who’s the best X’s-and-O’s coach left in the playoffs? Doc Rivers?
“Doc has been probably maligned for that inability at times, where people would have comments about him, but I think we’re seeing how great of a coach he is – not only in X’s and O’s, but also in the ability to motivate,” Johnson said. “I played on so many teams and had so many coaches, that I felt if I just paid attention to detail and if I worked harder, I’d have success – whatever system it was. And so I don’t know if it’s just all about who is the best X’s-and-O’s guy – because quite frankly, the X’s and O’s really only count out of timeouts when you need a bucket, when you need to make a possession count.
“Other than that, it’s what you teach them in practice and what they are capable of going out there to do based on what you’ve worked on,” Johnson continued. “I think the motivating part – getting them pumped up, getting them focused, getting them to believe – I think that’s where coaches have an edge. And you have to give Doc Rivers a heck of an edge against any coach. He just beat Gregg Popovich, and (he’s) arguably the best coach ever.”