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Sam Presti, Thunder put their trust in Billy Donovan for fifth season

The shadows of doubt surrounding Billy Donovan’s future disappeared Monday.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed the Thunder head coach is returning for a fifth season in 2019. That says a lot about not just the Thunder and its belief in what Donovan has done, but the next steps in bouncing back from what Presti called a disappointing season.

Presti defined the latest campaign in two words — capability and inconsistency. For years, Presti has emphasized the lack of roster consistency Donovan has battled since the departure of Kevin Durant. This season was different, though, a blend of attrition (Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines) and Presti admitting he didn’t bolster wing depth enough.

Presti still felt the staff succeeded in molding the Thunder into a Top 5 defense without those parts.

"A majority of the questions last year were about the defense, getting that corrected," Presti said. "I felt like even with the hit we took with Dre, we had some guys step up. I think the players and coaches did a pretty good job overall, but you're not going to solve one thing without creating another situation somewhere else."

In a quote that will likely haunt Presti for the rest of his days in OKC, he talked up Donovan’s "tactical competence" during his hire in 2015. Asked where Donovan’s tactics were strong this season, Presti mentioned the Thunder’s success out of timeouts, and a Top 5 defense that produced a league-high opponent’s turnover rate of 16 percent of their possessions. Presti also reached back into the archives for Donovan’s 2016 playoff masterwork — the dominance of a 67-win Spurs team and taking a 73-win Golden State to within minutes of elimination in the Western Conference finals.

(Durant was not mentioned in those Donovan-led triumphs.)

Enter capability and the Thunder’s inability to play to its capabilities even when it had Durant.

There was this season’s 12-13 post-All-Star break skid in which the team shifted between disinterest and disjointedness. In the playoffs, that opponents’ turnover rate dwindled and the Thunder’s offense stalled via fits of poor shooting from the collective and poor offense from Russell Westbrook.

Thus, comes the biggest question about the Donovan tenure: What, if anything, can he unearth from his star point guard?

Donovan can’t control Westbrook’s swift decline from the free throw line and his jump shot’s vanishing act. Yet, the leeway Donovan affords his point guards — from the collegiate level to the NBA — has been in question since he was at the University of Florida. Dennis Schroder questioned it just last week.

That leeway was placed in Westbrook’s hands from the Scott Brooks era. It ranges from inconsistent shot selection and defensive effort to fouls that put the Thunder’s opponent closer to the bonus.

"The head coach and the lead guard are always going to have to have a relationship and a give and take, and there will be ebbs and flows because you've got to work so closely together," Presti said. "I think both of those guys spoke to that in their media availability at the end of the season."

Before the Thunder’s chances at homecourt advantage came unglued, it had Donovan and Westbrook and Paul George operating together toward the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Before that, the fifth-year option on Donovan’s contract was picked up in November. Donovan has not received an extension, a sign the last season of his initial contract may be his last.

The Thunder has liked Donovan’s work despite the results since 2016 being more developmental — the progression of Jerami Grant, Terrance Ferguson, even Westbrook — than based on wins or playoff advancement.

The latter comes down to more than just Donovan, said Presti.

"I think he does a really good job," Presti said. "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.

"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? That’s a unified thing."

Related Photos
<strong>Billy Donovan will return to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a fifth season. Donovan has coached the Thunder to the playoffs all four seasons he's been at the helm. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Billy Donovan will return to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a fifth season. Donovan has coached the Thunder to the playoffs all four seasons he's been at the helm. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4946c663054e07a7f8836ee58647d397.jpg" alt="Photo - Billy Donovan will return to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a fifth season. Donovan has coached the Thunder to the playoffs all four seasons he's been at the helm. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Billy Donovan will return to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a fifth season. Donovan has coached the Thunder to the playoffs all four seasons he's been at the helm. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Billy Donovan will return to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a fifth season. Donovan has coached the Thunder to the playoffs all four seasons he's been at the helm. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9b917db78c9f334ccd76ee875efbb296.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday that coach Billy Donovan will return for a fifth season. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday that coach Billy Donovan will return for a fifth season. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday that coach Billy Donovan will return for a fifth season. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3756938bbab8ca8a8fc7e400015c3e96.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8e5d3b0f5775e8161e8765e3c21996aa.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5ff87d4fb382660a0350b7101e9af268.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2e91cd0bbfc8f129753d1b69c0a01094.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e340cff86760868fc8e03728cbe65a33.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0994c39c588d29f4b00cf8b23eee8559.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, smiles as he leaves the room after meeting with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, smiles as he leaves the room after meeting with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, smiles as he leaves the room after meeting with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0e2014bc94ea89453c3fe16f365bc5b5.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-889c1df0d195e824b0743c64f0de7191.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8bdfdef75617a234106849961f49efc6.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fcbbf80062204d4b5837cd2bd8d0d785.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2ea92d90652d809d68743f025dc9d3ab.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1a2590e3c392b18fbbe903f2bb35e97b.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7b8a4d8d3f385a860ed2277f6cc705dc.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ec0d43988ffb6d797fc7971d6ad4b3e3.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-188493f9cc9daa81af6c86b307af71e1.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7cd3a3fbdba753043026017be9482c83.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6391554bf2f140f7d96e471ef72abe3e.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a29c0c02960fba6ae9fb1026d7d91cc4.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9ecfc23abef5d8e019c6fc6a76f459c4.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6710e4a2452ba9baf331a3a576df34ff.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-89ab736b5ee13600ee37b5ae7f61b82e.jpg" alt="Photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]" title="Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, met with members of local media for nearly an hour Monday morning, April 29, 2019, at his annual postseason press conference at the Thunder practice facility. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Erik Horne

Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The... Read more ›

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