OKLAHOMA CITY — Thunder coach Billy Donovan does not betray emotions easily. Not on the court, not when speaking about his team.
Still, when asked about the coming dedication of the court at Exactech Arena — home of Florida Gator basketball — with his name, though the inflection of Donovan’s voice did not change, he was clearly feeling a preview of the emotion he knows will come over him when the moment arrives.
It arrives Saturday, in Gainesville, before Florida meets Vanderbilt.
The game will mark the first to be played upon “Billy Donovan Court.”
The Thunder play Thursday at New Orleans, after which they’re off an entire week for the All-Star break before playing again.
Donovan should have all the time he wants to enjoy the honor before returning to work.
“I think it will be very, very emotional, you know, for me,” Donovan said. “Going there when I was 30 years old and, [in] the coaching profession, it’s very, very hard to stay in the same place for a long period of time and I was fortunate to be there for 19 years.”
Donovan did quite well for himself over those years, leaving for the NBA after compiling a record of 467-186 that included 16 straight postseason appearances, 13 NCAA tournaments, two national championships, an additional Final Four appearance and three other trips to the Elite Eight.
Combined with two years spent at Marshall before landing in Gainesville, Donovan put together a collegiate coaching record of 502-206.
Interestingly, he came to Oklahoma City following a losing season. In his first two seasons at Florida, Donovan went 13-17 and 14-15. In his last, he went 16-17.
• Donovan on Bazley: Questioned about the knee injury rookie forward Darius Bazley suffered against Boston two days earlier, Donovan confirmed that Bazley suffered what the Thunder have termed a right knee bruise without contact with another player.
“I think when he planted his foot and was looking to push off it is when the injury occurred,” Donovan said.
He was also asked if the team was confident that a a knee bruise represented the full breadth of the injury.
“The diagnosis is what it is,” Donovan said. “He’s got, you know, a bruise there and we’ve got to wait for some time for it to heal.”
• Forbes values Thunder: Forbes, the financial magazine, has valued the Thunder franchise at $1.6 billion. By Forbes’ estimation, that makes it the 20th most valuable franchise in the NBA.
Forbes values three NBA franchises in excess of $4 billion: the New York Knicks ($4.6B), the Los Angeles Lakers ( $4.4B) and the Golden State Warriors ($4.3B).
The ownership group headed by Clay Bennett purchased the Thunder, then the Seattle SuperSonics — as well as the WNBA’s Seattle Storm — for $350 million in 2006 from Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.
• A new low: Oklahoma City’s 14-point first quarter against San Antonio marked a new low point total for the opening 12 minutes this season.
The Thunder trailed 25-14 after a quarter after shooting 5 of 21 overall and 1 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Thunder turned the ball over five times, while backup center Nerlens Noel was whistled for three fouls over just 97 seconds of floor time.