"We Have to Get a Lot Better" - Billy Donovan Didn't Sugarcoat Anything in His End-of-Season Interviews

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“We Have to Get a Lot Better” – Billy Donovan Didn’t Sugarcoat Anything in His End-of-Season Interviews

Chicago Bulls

The math checks out: Billy Donovan is a winner.

When Arturas Karnsiovas and Marc Eversley hired Donovan, he walked into the Advocate Center with a 243-157 record as an NBA head coach. He compiled that 60.8 percent winning percentage over six seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, appearing in the playoffs each season. Throw things all the way back to his time spent in college basketball, and we’ll find similar results. Donovan’s record sits at 502-206 between his two head coaching jobs at Marshall and Florida, and over his 21 years as a head coach at the collegiate level, he missed the postseason only six times.

Now, with the Bulls finishing the 2020-21 season with a 31-41 record (their best since the 2016-17 season, might I add), Donovan has recorded the first losing campaign of his NBA head coaching career. It’s also only the fourth losing season EVER in his journey as a head basketball coach (pros/college). So to say Donovan is in unfamiliar territory might be an understatement, and that is likely why we saw him act as if this season’s outcome was nothing short of unacceptable in his end-of-season press conference.

“I’m disappointed. I’ll always look at things I could have done better in a unique year. I don’t want to talk about the players and what they could have done better because we were all in this together. I think first and foremost looking at myself is the most important thing for me.”

The fault fell on Donovan’s shoulders first, as it should. While he is by far not the main problem with this team – the roster construction is greatly flawed within itself – it is his job to take full responsibility for what goes on in a given season. He did that repeatedly while talking to reporters on Sunday night, while also making it clear that everyone inside the organization must work to produce a better product.

“Over there a 72-game season, and 82-game season, I think you’re going to have games where, ‘gosh, I wish would’ve had that one back’ or ‘that was one we let slip away’ or ‘we just didn’t play to the level we needed to.’ That happens, but not the number of games we had. And I think trying to figure that piece out, and trying to evaluate that, will be something I will certainly, internally look at a great deal.”

The amount of missed opportunities this season might as well made the fat lady sing. Numerous times the Bulls either got off to a deadly sluggish start or completely crumbled in the fourth quarter. The team played 34 clutch games this season, finishing with a record of 14-21 in those close contests. Meanwhile, the Bulls 4th quarter Net Rating was the 4th-worst in the league. Play better in the final frame, and the Bulls might not be sitting on their couch right now.

Donovan didn’t sugarcoat anything. Sure, he mentioned the team’s lack of practice time, LaVine’s absence, and the trade deadline growing pains (as he should), but he didn’t use them as an excuse. If anything, he used them as other examples of things his team failed to overcome. To Donovan, they were all just situations where he and his players needed to perform better.

The head coach preached similar sentiments in his conversation on 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh Show Tuesday morning. Donovan talked more about this season’s shortcomings, and when asked whether or not he sees his team in the playoffs next season, he pumped the breaks on forecasting the future.

I do believe in this group. I do love being around these guys. They were wonderful to work with, but we have to get better. And we have to get a lot better. We got to get better competitively. We got to get better in terms of our turnovers. We got to get better in terms of our fouling. We got to get better defensively. We have to get better. Now, do I believe they can get better? Absolutely. But we have to do it.

Donovan isn’t only providing the energy you want to see from a head coach, he’s providing the energy the Bulls need. T

Check out Donovan’s final conversation with reporters below:



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.