Friday, June 1, 2007

June 1 News and Notes: Billy Donovan Central

It’s official: Florida head coach Billy Donovan has accepted a job offer from the Orlando Magic to become the next head coach of the franchise. He is replacing Brian Hill, who was fired last week. "Billy Donovan is a winner," Orlando general manager Otis Smith said. "We feel he is the right person to develop and maximize the talents of our players. We look forward to Billy leading us to the next level." Donovan reportedly accepted a contract worth $27.5 million over 5 years, down from the 6-year, $36 million deal that was originally reported. Donovan and Florida had apparently agreed upon a deal worth $3 million per year prior to him accepting the Magic job. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said Donovan needed something new. “I just think he wanted a new challenge,” Foley told The Gainesville Sun. “We all know he's had an interest in the NBA and his star was never going to be brighter. It's sad, but we'll always love Billy. He did what we hired him to do.” Donovan’s father, Bill Sr., was excited for his son. "I can't tell you how excruciating this was for him. He went back and forth for so long on it. But the recruiting really takes a toll on a coach and hopefully he can spend more time with his family now,” he said. "I think it's great for Billy.” Donovan has won back-to-back championships with the Gators in the past two seasons, going 261-103 in 11 seasons at UF. Prior to coaching in Gainesville, Donovan was the head coach at Marshall for two years and an assistant coach at Kentucky for five seasons.

As for Billy Donovan’s replacement at Florida, Virginia Commonwealth head coach Anthony Grant tops the list. However, he is not discussing the subject for now. “I don't want to comment on speculation," Grant said. Furthermore, even if he is offered the Florida job, it is not a guarantee that he will take it. "I am just so excited about what we were doing here," Christina Grant, Anthony's wife, told The New York Times on Thursday. "To move, it just wouldn't feel tight right now. We have so much to do here." Grant led VCU to an NCAA Tournament in his first season with the Rams. Other candidates, according to Dave Curtis of The Orlando Sentinel, might include Jay Wright of Villanova, Xavier’s Sean Miller, John Pelphrey of Arkansas, and Louisville’s Rick Pitino. Sources say that Florida will likely act fast in finding a replacement.

Andy Staples of The Tampa Tribune looks ahead to life after Billy Donovan for the Florida program, asking six key questions that will shape the future of the Gators. He discusses the potential replacements for Donovan—with VCU’s Anthony Grant leading the way; who is currently on the Florida roster; how important it is to keep the incoming recruits; and what will happen if the Gators lose a couple of recruits or keep them all.

According to the
Houston Chronicle, McDonald’s All-American Jai Lucas is going to see who the replacement for Billy Donovan is, and then re-evaluate the situation. "I asked Jai if he had the opportunity to go to the pros after his first year and he said, 'Yes,' " John Lucas, Jai’s father, said."So I told him, 'You can't hold your coach hostage if he wants to go to the pros.' Billy was a big reason Jai chose Florida, but he wasn't the only reason." Lucas also says that he knew that Donovan would likely end up in the NBA. "I always told Jai I thought (Donovan) would go to the NBA," Lucas said. "There's not much more he can accomplish at the college level after winning two championships, even though Florida's a very attractive place to play and coach. That's the nature of our business. He's a hot name right now."

Despite the departure of head coach Billy Donovan, two key Florida recruits have already announced that they will honor their commitments to the Gators, Buddy Collins of The Orlando Sentinel reports. According to him, Chandler Parsons and McDonald’s All-American Nick Calathes have said that are still headed to Gainesville. "To think about going to a different school when I'm supposed to leave for Florida in less than a month -- that's too weird to even think about," Parsons said. Calathes talked about how surprised he was when he heard the news. "I really didn't think this would happen, and neither did [fellow recruits Alex Tyus and Jai Lucas]," said Calathes. "They're saying the same thing. They're really shocked. We're all surprised.”

Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post reports on the incoming recruits and their reaction to the news of Billy Donovan leaving Gainesville. "Aw man," said McDonald’s All-American Jai Lucas said. "That's a big blow, because you know, that's who I was coming in and expecting to play for." Lucas didn’t blame Donovan, though. "It's kind of weird, because he told me he wasn't going anywhere," he said. "But things happen, and I'm sure if he does take it it's the best thing he could do for his family." Chandler Parsons echoed that statement. "I was shocked; I thought I'd be playing for coach Donovan," Parsons said. "I was a little upset; I'm sure he made the decision that was best for his family." ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was upset about the news. "He's got a good thing going. To throw that away? I don't know,” he said. “I just think he fits the puzzle so perfectly in Florida."

Luke Winn of says that Florida needs to bring back VCU coach Anthony Grant as the replacement for Billy Donovan. When you lose the hottest coach in the entire college game, and you have the opportunity to replace him with the hottest up-and-coming coach in the college game,” he writes, “you don't pass it up.” Winn says that Grant has smooth leadership skills and knows how to motivate his players. He also discusses the fact that Grant would likely be able to convince all of the incoming Gator recruits to stay.

Pat Forde of wonders why Florida head coach Billy Donovan would want to leave a great thing with the Gators and jump to the NBA. “I hope he's not just another college coach who, for some reason couldn't tolerate living with the happiness and success he built by hand, chose the misery of losing in the NBA instead,” wrote Forde. Forde also says that Donovan could have gone down as one of the most successful college coaches in history, but instead will throw that away to coach in the NBA. He says that Donovan is giving up “The Perfect Job.”

Rick Bozich of the
Louisville Courier-Journal thinks that Billy Donovan is making a mistake by going to the NBA. “You'll never convince me Donovan will have a team like the 2006-07 Gators in the NBA,” he writes. “Won't happen.” He also gives this reason as to why Donovan went to the Magic: “He thinks he is The One.” In other words, Bozich writes that Donovan wants to be one of the few college coaches to succeed in the Association, unlike Rick Pitino, John Calipari, etc. Lastly, Bozich thinks that Donovan will eventually come back to college, “where he belongs.”

David Whitley of The Orlando Sentinel writes that Florida fans cannot blame head coach Billy Donovan for leaving the Gators to coach the Orlando Magic. Some feelings of jilt are understandable. The news came so fast; it had all of us dizzy. But once your head stops spinning, you should examine your anger,” writes Whitley. “What has Donovan done that's so wrong?” He discusses how, even though Donovan could have become a Coach K-like legend in Gainesville, he had done all he could in college and had nowhere to go but down. On the topic of Florida fans, he writes, “They owe Donovan a lot more than he owes them."

John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times writes that Billy Donovan is passing up an opportunity to become a coaching legend by accepting the head coaching job for the Orlando Magic. “Donovan is taking on a bigger challenge and advancing to a higher tax bracket, but he is also bypassing the opportunity to be an icon in a world where so few exist,” said Romano. He also says that Donovan cares “so little about his legacy” and that Donovan was one of the only people in this generation with the chance to become an icon.

Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel writes about how the hiring of Billy Donovan gives the Orlando Magic franchise hope for the future. “The Magic didn't get just a new coach Thursday,” he wrote. “They got a new arena; they got a new start; they got a new lease on life.” Bianchi later calls Donovan “the greatest coach in the history of [the Magic] franchise.” He also writes that Florida fans should not blame Donovan for leaving. “You can't blame Billy one bit or begrudge him one iota for leaving” Bianchi wrote. “He was at UF for 11 years, won two national titles, played for another, took the Gators to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments and turned a football school into one of the elite basketball programs in college basketball history. I'd say he did his job.”

Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel does not think that Billy Donovan is going to turn around the Orlando Magic. He says that the only reason Donovan accepted the job offer from the Magic was the money. “Here's why he's in Orlando today: $5.5 million a year,” writes Hyde. “That's it.” He also discusses that now was the perfect time for Donovan to leave Florida, as the Gators lost their top six scorers, including three lottery picks. “No doubt their leaving Gainesville made it the perfect time for Donovan to leave,” writes Hyde. “[He] figured if he didn't take the money now he might not have the chance again.”

Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald says that the odds are against Billy Donovan have a successful and smooth transition to the NBA. “The NBA is no place for college coaches with no previous training,” writes Gutierrez. “And not even Donovan, who has seemed to overcome long odds at every level of his basketball career, is suited for success.” He discusses how Donovan may have blown any chance he had at become a college coaching legend and how Donovan’s image may be tarnished if he fails in the NBA.

Martin Fennelly of
The Tampa Tribune says that he is not surprised by Billy Donovan leaving Florida for the NBA. It doesn't matter,” Fennelly wrote of the constant failure of college coaches in the NBA. “The great coaches always think they'll be the one. It's what made them great in the first place. Don't try telling them what they can't do. It’s what coaches do.” He also does not sympathize with Gator fans who feel that Donovan betrayed them. “This man was no carpetbagger,” he wrote. “He was here 11 years. And he gave you enough basketball history for three lifetimes. Billy D was the best.”

Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post says that the time—and the price—is right for Billy Donovan to leave Florida. “He went for the money,” he writes. “The truth of the matter is Donovan might have left a year ago had he not felt such a strong connection with and allegiance to a starting lineup that won the national championship and then chose to return intact to defend it.” Stoda also does not think Donovan will stay in the NBA. “My guess is Donovan will be back on a college campus, pockets lined with NBA loot and ego satisfied, sooner rather than later,” he writes.

Don't worry, this edition is not ALL about Billy Donovan; there is other news in the college basketball world:

Georgetown junior forward Jeff Green, who announced last week that he was staying the Draft, is still unsure of his status. "I haven't made it final that I'm coming out yet, and I'm still going to take some time to make a decision," Green said. "I haven't signed with an agent yet and there's still a chance [to go back to the Hoyas].” He is also thinking about how good Georgetown could be if he goes back. "We could come back and probably be a top-five team and have the opportunity to win a national championship," Green told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That has been one of the things I have been looking at." Green, who averaged 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game last season, is projected as a Top-10 pick.

According to the
Birmingham News, the SEC is encouraging its men’s basketball coaches to be more flexible with scheduling in order to increase the league’s television exposure. They discussed trading a Wednesday game for a possible televised Thursday game. "We made sure the league office understands we will trade for television because of the visibility and exposure, and I think it's helped us," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said at the SEC Spring Meetings. "That might mean a Thursday-Saturday for one team and a Wednesday-Saturday for another. But you know what? We all sat in that meeting and said for the additional exposure, we're willing to do it."

Kurt Caywood of the
Topeka Capital-Journal writes about the 2007-2008 season for Kansas. He says that the Jayhawks are not the same team as last year sans Julian Wright. “On paper…This is again one of the nation’s most talented teams, only with another year’s experience,” he wrote. “On the floor, there’s work to do. Even with almost all the same players, this is a different team. It’s all got to fit back together.” He also discusses that Kansas needs a power forward and that Self will have to earn his $1.6 million per year salary.

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