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Why We Fight

So now the stream of coaching rumors begins in earnest, with such high profile and oft-mentioned potential targets as John Calipari (Memphis), Billy Gillespie (Texas A&M), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Denny Crum (Retirement) no longer coaching this season.

OK, I just included Crum to make sure you weren't sleeping.

The national media is also jumping on the bandwagon, pushing the increasingly popular meme that Billy Donovan (a) is so happy, (b) has a happy family entrenched in Gainsville, (c) has no interest or (d) all of the above that he will never be the UK coach.

My reply? What world are you living in, Mssrs. Head-Up-Your-Ass?

Florida sold out exactly one non-conference game this season (of course, their home non-conference schedule read like a who's who of schools BCS lawbreakers look to transfer to, but I digress ... ) -- Ohio State.

Kentucky sold 23,000+ tickets to a basketball practice.

This, coming off a disappointing season that had many feeling things were taking a turn for the worse. Those folks were right. And they still showed up like the morbidly obese to kids eat free night at Ryan's Steakhouse.

Not to mention the challenge that every ego-driven meglomaniacal head coach is convinced he needs to continue waking up in the morning. Tell me, even if he wins the national title -- hell, especially if he does -- this season, what more does Billy Donovan have to prove at Florida? That he can sustain a program he built?

I am not implying he will or won't come to Lexington, but this percolating idea that Donovan somehow has no reason to take the UK job -- inarguably, and I do mean inarguably, one of the four premier jobs in America with UNC, UCLA and Duke -- is not only ludicrous, it's credibility-destroyingly naive.

Major college coaches, like any professional, want to be the best at what they do. especially guys like Donovan, a guy seemingly in better physical shape than they were in his playing days.

Why would Kelvin Sampson leave Oklahoma, where he had just signed a top-5 recruiting class and where he could coach in perpetuity for Indiana and its "unrealistic" fans? Why would Bill Self leave Illinois after an Elite Eight appearance with a team that one year later nearly won the national title for Kansas?

Simple: because the challenge is as big a part of the game as the reward. And because to get to where they are, these mega-watt coaches feed on ego and challenge.

Tubby Smith had this once. But it seemed like somewhere in the middle of explaining to Joe Crawford for the umpteenth time why he had to pass the ball Tubby lost his edge. Where was the stomping firebrand we'd come to know and love? Where was 'The Stare'? Gone, and with it, Tubby's coaching mojo.

Again, Billy Donovan mat very well be angling for a 4-mil-a-year deal from the Florida A.D. I can't say. He might feel that the pressure of following friend and former peer Tubby Smith would be either too much or too strange to handle. He might just love Florida as much as dudes like this think he does.

Or, as I believe, he might see the Kentucky job as the kind of Hall of Fame potential job it is.

Would anyone likely see Tubby Smith as a potential Hall of Fame coach had he never jumped to Kentucky in 1997 and taken, say, an open job at a school like Michigan or UNLV? Love him or hate him, the answer is still no.

Tubby Smith helped give Kentucky its 7th title. But Kentucky made Tubby Smith the $1.8 million coach he is today. And while Rick Pitino is owed a ton of gratitude for reviving the UK program -- enough that they hung his name in the rafters at Rupp -- he's still living off the name recognition that Kentucky gave him.

Donovan is not the only coach that can win big at Kentucky. Don't get sucked into thinking that. Hyperbole granted, but a few good bounces, and Tubby Smith is looking at three Final Fours and a shot at the Hall of Fame. Kentucky put him in the position to get there.

And don't think guys like Billy Donovan don't know that.