Consistency. Communication. Calmness.
Those are some of the words you hear most when asking players about the style and demeanor of Billy Donovan.
They are serving him, and the organization, well now as the Chicago Bulls deal with a full-blown outbreak stemming from COVID-19.
Donovan is the most forward-facing member of the organization. Like most NBA teams in this day and age, he is tasked as head coach to address reporters more than anybody else with the team.
And throughout the Bulls’ ordeal, not one excuse or woe-is-us sentiment has emanated from Donovan.
“We’re not the only team dealing with this,” Donovan said recently in a common answer.
While that’s accurate, only the Charlotte Hornets and the Bulls have been hit by the coronavirus to this extent.
“Our guys have been class acts, totally professional. They’ve handled whatever’s come their way,” Donovan said recently. “It’s the whole thing you’ve got to control what you can control. Inconveniences can get frustrating and annoying, but we have to deal with it.”
Praising players is another trait of Donovan’s. He does his constructive criticism in private, behind closed doors. And he’s comfortable enough to point the finger inward or accept second-guessing when the situation warrants it.
As the Bulls are experiencing a culture change throughout the NBA, Donovan likes talking about achieving a standard of play. When it’s not met, even if his team is shorthanded, he doesn’t make excuses. He analyzes why and works collaboratively with his staff and players to try to improve.
It’s no wonder Joakim Noah gushed as soon as news broke that the Bulls were hiring Donovan in September 2020.
Noah won two NCAA titles with Donovan at Florida.
“He’s someone who cares about his players, someone who is very demanding, someone who is very competitive and just has a great balance to him,” Noah said then. “Coach Donovan is somebody who is going to hold his players accountable and is somebody who can relate to his players while keeping a relationship with the guys. That’s a tough balance. But he’s proven he’s been able to do it time and time again.”
Donovan is a realist and a straight shooter. It’s how he communicates to players. It’s also why he focuses on what he can control. And as the global pandemic has proved time and again, the virus is in control.
The Bulls are a fully vaccinated team and yet have experienced multiple breakthrough cases. Some have been asymptomatic, caught only because the Bulls are undergoing daily testing now that they’re in the midst of an outbreak.
Coby White and Javonte Green could be back in time for Tuesday’s home game against the Pistons. Until then, expect consistency and no excuses from Donovan.