By Randy Renner
Thunder forward Nick Collison says he's really gotten to like his new boss over the summer.
Collison attended Billy Donovan's first news conference in Oklahoma City as head coach of the Thunder and then sat down with his new coach several times before Collison left town for some vacation time.
"He seems very sharp and very in tune with our team and what we need to get better at and I'm sure he'll learn a lot more as the season goes along," Collison said Tuesday afternoon as he greeted children at Oklahoma City's Special Care School. "I like what I've heard so far and I'm really looking forward to it."
Donovan was highly respected as a college coach, winning 467 games and two National Championships at Florida and making it to four Final Fours.
But Billy D has never coached a day in the NBA, even as an assistant. He had an opportunity with the Orlando Magic but famously returned to the Gators a day after signing a contract to coach the Magic. Still Collison says Donovan will have the respect of Thunder players unless he shows he doesn't deserve it.
"As a player, you're gonna respect your coach whoever it is especially at the start, until there's a reason not too."
Based on his experience with the Thunder organization, Collison doesn't expect a reason like that to come up. He moved to Oklahoma City with the Seattle SuperSonics when they became the Thunder. He quickly grew to respect and appreciate the leadership of the ownership group and especially GM Sam Presti. Those feelings also serve to help soothe any nervousness over and NBA rookie coach.
"With the organization and the way we've been treated as players we're gonna put some trust in that they know what they're doing and got a good guy for us to work with."
That college resume certainly doesn't hurt with Donovan being a head coach for 20 years and being a consistent winner. Several of his former players are in the NBA and to a man say they loved playing for Donovan.
"Yeah, he's had a ton of success," Collison acknowledged, "and I think he's also very open-minded, willing to learn and even change if he sees a need for it. So everything seems to be going well so far."
That of course could all change once things get serious and training camp begins on Tuesday but right now all the players seem comfortable with and excited about their new head coach.