Billy Donovan was not out of work long. After mutually agreeing to leave his post as coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Donovan has agreed to become coach of the Chicago Bulls, the team announced Tuesday. The deal is for four years and worth north of $24 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Bulls recently hired a new head of basketball operations, former Denver Nuggets executive Arturas Karnisovas, so the Donovan hire completes their organizational overhaul and gives the Bulls a coach with high-level playoff experience and a developmental track record at the University of Florida.
“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” Karnisovas said in a statement. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”
Still, the hire is surprising through the lens of Donovan’s exit in Oklahoma City. His departure was reportedly based on the uncertainty of their future, with a likely rebuild coming. The Thunder reportedly offered Donovan a two-year extension before the season, but he declined, and with a Chris Paul trade likely looming, Donovan decided to test out the market and see what else he could find. Now he’s landed a gig with a team in a somewhat similar position.
The Bulls have plenty of young talent in Coby White, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, but are picking No. 4 overall in the upcoming NBA Draft and should struggle to reach the postseason quickly in a crowded Eastern Conference. While the Bulls are further along with it, they are still in the middle of a rebuild, but Chicago still managed to convince Donovan to take the job despite the potentially lean years ahead.
“I want to thank Jerry, Michael, Arturas and Marc for the opportunity to coach the Chicago Bulls. I also want to thank them for the time and effort they put into this hiring process. I’m excited to partner with Arturas as we work together on behalf of this historic franchise,” Donovan said in a statement.
Chicago aggressively pursued Donovan as soon as he left the Thunder, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, is still searching for a replacement. Philadelphia, New Orleans, Houston and Indiana are also still looking for new head coaches. With Donovan off of the market, the competition for the few remaining veteran head coaches with winning track records will now get that much stiffer.