Sixers rumors: Billy Donovan is name to watch in head coaching search

The Sixers are expected to consider the newly available Billy Donovan for their vacancy at head coach.

After getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round, the Philadelphia 76ers were quick to pull the plug on Brett Brown. Now the search for a new head coach is ongoing, with one candidate standing above the rest — Tyronn Lue.

With that said, Lue is not the only candidate the Sixers are expected to consider. After an amicable and mutually agreed upon departure from Oklahoma City, Billy Donovan is now on the market. After a successful stretch with the Thunder, he immediately becomes a name to watch.

According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Donovan is expected to be a candidate for Philadelphia’s open job. Also interested are the Bulls, so the Sixers will surely have competition if Donovan at any point emerges as a favorite.

In five seasons with Oklahoma City, Donovan posted a coaching record of 243-157. He has dealt with more than his fair share of superstar ego over that stretch, coaching the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and most recently, Chris Paul. He’s someone who can command respect from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Before that, he was a long-tenured (and extremely successful) head coach at the University of Florida. He joins Brad Stevens as one of the most prominent college-to-NBA success stories in recent history.

Donovan left OKC to, from all indications, avoid a rebuild. The Sixers are much further from a rebuild than Chicago, and it’s undeniably appealing to coach a team with Embiid, Simmons, and Philadelphia’s dearth of top-end talent — even if that talent doesn’t fit together perfectly.

Also notable is Donovan’s history with Al Horford, who he coached and won a championship with at Florida. If anyone can unlock and engage Horford, it’s probably Donovan. If Horford’s voice has any weight in the decision (which, hopefully, it doesn’t), you can expect him to vouch for Donovan.

There’s no denying that Donovan is a good coach. He finished top-three in Coach of the Year voting this season, and while I would reject the notion that OKC over-performed, he did accomplish a lot with a team most were happy to write off before the season.

Another wrinkle to consider is the possibility that Philadelphia pursues a Chris Paul trade this summer. Donovan obviously has a working relationship there, and while a coaching hire would likely come before a blockbuster trade, Donovan could assuage some of the front office’s potential concerns with brining Paul onboard.

Donovan is a name to watch. It’s as simple as that.