With the Timberwolves hunting for a new coach and expected to look at established college coaches, Louisville coach Rick Pitino — the only man who has won NCAA men’s basketball titles at separate schools — talked with ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” last week about Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Florida’s Billy Donovan, two potential candidates.
Pitino’s opinion: Donovan is more likely of the two to successfully make the tough transition from college to the NBA.
“Billy would be terrific because he’s a lot like Brad Stevens in his personality,” Pitino said, referring to the former Butler coach whom the Boston Celtics hired last summer. “Billy Donovan has the personality. Tom Izzo is a lot like myself: You think the game should be played a certain way — his way, his style. Tom is a different type of basketball coach. Not that he couldn’t be successful, but he’d have to adjust tremendously. If he’s willing to do that, he’d be an excellent pro coach. But he’d really have to adjust to the professional athlete.”
At 48, Donovan is 11 years younger than Izzo. He agreed to coach the Orlando Magic in 2007, but changed his mind after appearing at an introductory news conference. In backing away, he agreed not to coach an NBA team for five years, a moratorium that has passed.
Pitino said his former player and assistant could make the leap, but doesn’t expect him to do so.
Donovan left himself open to coaching in the NBA someday when asked last month during the NCAA tournament about his hometown New York Knicks.
“He could adjust,” said Pitino, who coached Donovan at Providence and with the Knicks. “Billy in the back of his mind always has wanted to try it. He loves strategy. He loves offensive plays. He loves staying up all night thinking of different ways to innovate. He has the personality to deal with professional athletes. He’s a very humble man who doesn’t have to be in control of his environment. I think he’d do very well if he chooses that path.”