clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Neverending Story [UPDATED]

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described the war in Iraq as a "long, hard slog."

It's starting to look like a "long, hard slog" for Kentucky's head coaching search as well.  Tubby Smith left the Kentucky job vacant only a fortnight ago, yet for Kentucky fans, it seems more like a month.  News seems to be at a standstill, and the job vacancy appears to threaten both our recruiting and our sanity.

But they say that patience is a virtue, and patience we must show.  The Orlando Sentinel says that Donovan doesn't have any job interviews in his plans for the next ten days at least:

Donovan did confirm a busy week ahead that suggests his job for next season could be confirmed in the next few days. The coach said he and his family will fly to the Dominican Republic on Saturday to begin a weeklong vacation. If Donovan hasn't accepted the Wildcats job by then, UK may need to investigate other candidates.

The fact of the matter is, the longer the search goes on, the more fluid it becomes.  The NBA regular season comes to a close in a few days, and some interest from that direction could emerge.  Also, the longer Donovan dallies, the more likely that other coaches who were previously thinking they didn't have a real shot may put out feelers.

As far as the search goes, a more deliberate process is likely to yield some unexpected candidates.  Right now, things are a little crazy with schools trying to fill jobs and coaches chasing dollars and dreams - Dana Altman was the coach at the University of Arkansas for about 48 hours, then reneged and came crawling back to Creighton.  John Beilein took the Michigan coaching job "site unseen", without even a visit to the UM campus.

Yeah, things are a little weird right now.  The Palm Beach Post says that no news is bad news for Florida:

If his sole intention is to remain focused on the Gators, as he says it is, and if he doesn't want to be a distraction in these celebratory times as Florida basks in the glow of consecutive national championships, then why doesn't Donovan tell the Wildcats that he's not going anywhere?

Where have you heard this question before?

Some UK fans are wondering of Donovan could possibly be so classless as to play Kentucky for a fool.  They suggest perhaps he is leading Kentucky on with vague comments, serving only to distract our administration and further hobble the program by prolonging UK's advances with a job for which he has no real interest.  Others are suggesting that perhaps he is a bit wishy-washy and doesn't want to make a tough decision right now.

I reject both of those opinions.  Donovan is buying time to think and consult.  It's a good bet he wants to discuss the UK possibility with his family and friends after all the hullabaloo over his second championship has subsided a bit. But he cannot take much longer, or Kentucky's interest may begin to wane.

Mike Bianchi of the Sun-Sentinel continues his insults against UK unabated:

Remember this, Billy: At Florida, you can win 20 games and lose early in the NCAA Tournament and still get a big raise and a contract extension. At Kentucky, if you win 20 games and lose early in the NCAA Tournament, you get exiled to Minnesota. Just ask Tubby Smith.


I've got news for you -- at Kentucky, there are no joyful, carefree runs, only demanding, burdensome expectations.

I would just like to point out that the reason Florida basketball has no "burdensome expectations" is because quite frankly, there is no reason to have them, except perhaps this year.  There were certainly none last year, even when they won the championship.

Florida has had a nice run lately.  They shouldn't get used to it.  Even if Donovan stays, a resurgent Kentucky (and Kentucky will be back, Donovan or no) will likely return him to the days of only 3 short years ago when he couldn't get a win over the Wildcats for love nor money.  It doesn't look that way to Florida fans right now, but all they have to do is ask Nolan Richardson how it went after Thurmon, Williamson and Co. left the stage at Fayetteville.

So some of you Florida fans think I'm full of it, eh?  Well, perhaps this will change your thinking:

Several hundred fans and fellow students, many wearing Florida orange and blue, waited nearly three hours in the heat at Gainesville Regional Airport, hoping to catch a glimpse of the team or get a high five or an autograph.

Imagine that.  "Several hundred" fans greeting a team returning from a national championship.  Around here, things go a little differently.  Last time we won the national championship, thousands of fans were on hand to greet the team, as I recall.

Peter Kerasotis of Florida Today tells it like it is:

UF handed out a press release before Monday night's championship game, spelling out details of when the Gators' plane returns to Gainesville. The headline on the release said, "Gator Fans Invited to Welcome Home Coach Donovan and the Men's Basketball Team."

Interesting that it would put Billy Donovan's name in the headline. It was almost as if they were saying, "Please, please come and tell Billy how much you love and adore him. Pretty please."

Equally as interesting is that Kentucky doesn't have to put out such press releases when they win national championships. Oh, perhaps they do just as a cursory gesture. But at Kentucky, the fans already know when the plane will arrive. And they show up. En masse. Basketball means something different there. Something more. Florida's two national championships notwithstanding.[emphasis mine]

That is the difference between Florida and Kentucky.  Basketball means more to us than to Florida fans.  Donovan knows this.  He has been here, done that, and has the T-shirt framed on his wall - where he can look at it.  I'll bet it's going with him on vacation.

Finally, we have an excellent defense of Kentucky fans, long overdue, in the Kentucky Kernel.  Wes Blevins wrote the article, and it is a beauty:

UK fans have become used to success in college basketball. Winning is expected, and losing is barely tolerated. But the vast majority of Kentucky fans are perfectly reasonably people. We don't expect national championships every year. We don't expect a Final Four trip every year.

What we do expect - year in and year out - is one thing: Kentucky basketball. We expect to be competitive in the SEC, vying for a bye in the SEC tournament on a yearly basis. We expect to make the NCAA tournament every year, a trip to the Sweet 16 most years and a Final Four run every few years.

That's not unreasonable. That's UK basketball.

We know now that many in the national media have merrily lumped all Kentucky fans in with the Dynasty Defender crowd.  We also know that sort of insanity afflicts a rather small minority of UK's fan base, and as one of the underappreciated majority, I welcome articles like this with alacrity.

Billy Donovan would be proud to have those fan expectations Wes describes at Florida, I guarantee it.  The fact that he doesn't is one reason why he should consider taking his act here.

Update [2007-4-4 14:17:30 by Truzenzuzex]: WLKY here in Louisville is reporting that the Memphis Grizzlies have offered Billy Donovan $5 million to coach the team, and that UK has offered $4 million. Their sources tell them Donovan will reject the Grizzlies offer, but no word on UK. NOTE: I have no confirmation to WLKY's story - they are all alone on this so far.

Update [2007-4-4 14:22:10 by Truzenzuzex]: WKYT in Lexington says the Grizzlies offered $5.5 million. I still don't consider this confirmed.