BOZICH | How Kevin Durant leaving OKC is a college basketball (B - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | How Kevin Durant leaving OKC is a college basketball (Billy Donovan) story, too

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Former Florida coach Billy Donovan (right) lost Kevin Durant Monday and could lose Russell Westbrook soon. Former Florida coach Billy Donovan (right) lost Kevin Durant Monday and could lose Russell Westbrook soon.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kevin Durant celebrated his Independence Day by soaring from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors.

It became the story of the year in the NBA, setting off the squawking heads from sea to shining sea.

Louisville does not have an NBA team (a column for another day). But every basketball story is a college basketball story in this town. Including Kevin Durant jumping from middle America to the Left Coast.

Here's how: Billy Donovan left an excellent and secure job at Florida to coach Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Donovan was the guy recruited to finish the job Scott Brooks could not finish – win an NBA title.

Donovan did excellent work during his first season, winning 55 games and maneuvering the Thunder to within one victory of the NBA Finals.

Donovan did not get that victory, not after winning three of four games against Golden State in the Western Conference finals.

Durant is gone. Westbrook is likely to follow, either in a trade this summer or as a free agent after next season.

The Thunder without Durant and Westbrook aren't the Thunder that Donovan left Florida to coach. They're the Bucks or the Nuggets.

The only time a job like that is better than a five-star college basketball job is payday. It’s silly to think Oklahoma City can stuff its roster with two of the 10 best players in the league again.

Donovan is likely to learn what Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Lon Kruger, Mike Montgomery, Tim Floyd and other college guys learned: It’s better to have players than a dazzling playbook.

It’s reasonable to wonder how much coaching a rebuilding team without Durant and Westbrook will appeal to Donovan. I have not read any reaction from the coach since the Durant decision. Donovan has not Tweeted since he left Florida.

But remember: This is a proud coach who won two NCAA titles and put himself on a direct path to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame at Florida.

Especially if a college job opens like North Carolina. Or Duke. Or UCLA.

Or Louisville.

There’s no breaking news here. I’m not saying any of those jobs will open next spring.

But I would not be stunned if one (or more) did.

Roy Williams of North Carolina will turn 66 in August. He told radio host Dan Patrick last spring that he could coach 10 more seasons.

Williams also has a pair of bad knees. He collapsed on the sidelines at Boston College last season. Williams has dealt with vertigo. He’s already in the Hall of Fame with a pair of NCAA titles. How much longer is a reasonable question in Chapel Hill?

At Duke, Mike Krzyzewski has recruited better than he has ever recruited. He has won two of the last seven national titles. He will make a run at a third Olympic gold medal with Team USA in Brazil next month. His legacy does not require fine tuning.

But Coach K will be 70 next February. He’s undergone four surgeries, including double knee replacement, since the end of the 2016 season. Coach K has already exceeded the longevity of John Wooden (retired at 65), Dean Smith (66) or Bob Knight (67).

It’s reasonable to ask: How much longer?

Age is not the question with Steve Alford at UCLA. Winning is the question.

The Bruins won 15 of 32 games last season. Alford has failed to win a Pac-12 title in three seasons. A segment of UCLA has yet to endorse him – and some never will.

Then there is Louisville. Rick Pitino has 10 years remaining on his contract. Pitino could go 10 years. Or he could go one. In case you have not noticed, Pitino occasionally changes his mind.

The variables are considerable as the program awaits word from the NCAA investigative staff. My guess is that Pitino wants to make at least one more big tournament run.

Donovan knows the turf in Louisville and would appreciate working at a place that loves basketball as much as he loves the game. Whenever Pitino departs, Donovan is a coach who will be mentioned for the job.

If any of those elite jobs open (there is a reasonable chance at least one will), the first call I would make would be to Billy Donovan.

That's how Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City is a college basketball story, too.

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