OKLAHOMA CITY -- Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday "we anticipate Billy [Donovan] being back," in reference to whether the team's head coach will return next season.
Presti said he has not officially met yet with Donovan but plans to do that in the coming days, leaving the door cracked for something to change. Asked to clarify if "anticipate" means Donovan will be the coach next season, Presti said that's his expectation.
"I wouldn't expect anything to change," he said. "I haven't had the chance to sit down with him. I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there's nobody that works harder than him. If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation."
Donovan is entering the last year of a five-year contract he signed when he was hired by the Thunder in 2015 after the franchise fired Scott Brooks. The Thunder exercised a team option for the 2019-20 season on Donovan's contract last December.
The Thunder had a "disappointing" and "frustrating" season, Presti said, bowing out in the first round in five games to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Thunder were 37-19 at one point in the season, but stumbled down the stretch, finishing 49-33. Presti said he viewed the season as 70 percent good and 30 percent bad, but it's also the third consecutive first-round exit for the Thunder.
"I don't think you can discount the fact that we got our ass kicked in the playoffs," Presti said. "There's no getting around that. But I think anyone objective and anybody that is more than a momentary problem solver would probably take a step back and look at the whole thing. To try to answer your question, it's to say, I don't have that answer, and I would think that if I did, you shouldn't listen to me because I would just be coming in here with an emotional perspective, which as a leader I can't do that."
Donovan has guided the Thunder to the playoffs in all four seasons at the helm, including the Western Conference finals and a 3-1 lead over the 73-win Warriors in 2016 (the Thunder lost the series in seven games, and then Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in free agency). The Thunder then won 47 games, 48 games and 49 games.
"When we were going through the Western Conference playoffs in 2016, within two minutes of going to the Finals, I thought he did an excellent job," Presti said." I don't think he's any different than he was there."
Presti noted the Thunder's defensive improvements this season (fourth in defensive rating), a stated offseason goal for the team, and Donovan's proficiency in after-timeout plays.
"I think he does a really good job," Presti said of Donovan. "But these jobs are really hard. You can draw up the best plays or you can put together what you feel is a really good team, and sometimes it doesn't come to fruition because there's so many other competing factors and forces that are at play. And so ultimately it's whether or not all of us -- when I say that, I mean every single person in the organization -- can we try to get the most out of what we have. You know, that's a unified thing."
"I've never had a problem with Coach Donovan," Westbrook said. "We've always been straightforward with each other and always had a good communication of respect for each other's jobs and respect for how hard we both work at what we want best for this team."
Said George: "I think that's the best thing about Billy is he takes our input, and it's always an open dialogue, and he's open with coaching and adjustments. It's great communication with Billy."