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Billy Donovan: Betty Boop with a Widow's Peak?

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Well, the relative paucity of actual UK Wildcats news has forced me to finally look into a situation that has been briefly touched on here at ASoB, but generally ignored.  But no more.

The Billy Donovan situation at Florida has become a slow-motion nightmare for 2000-3000 Gator fans who actually love basketball more than football.  It is to these fans I write today, on behalf of their UK brothers who know all about what it is like to have a coach you love go all sideways on you after two highly successful years.

As many of you know, Gregg Doyel is not my favorite columnist, but as the old saying goes, "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then".  Today, Doyel gives us this column which is highly critical of Donovan's repeated flirtation with seemingly every high-profile job that comes along.

Doyel compares Donovan to a promiscuous woman, and I think that is truly apt.  Nobody understands better than UK fans that great coaches get opportunities.  We have had a tramp of our own, and rumors of their departure tend to run rampant this time of year.  So we feel ya, Florida fans -- we know what it is like to have a harlot at the helm of our basketball team, and though I doubt Donovan could ever match Pitino for shamelessness, Donovan is trying for a world record at coy denials.

Now, Doyel doesn't issue a disclaimer so I will do it for him -- Doyel is a Florida grad, and regardless of any protestations to the contrary, we have to assume that he is a fan of his alma mater.  As such, it can hardly be surprising that he is fed up with the constant stream of weasel-words issuing forth from Billy's mouth.  To Donovan's credit, they are the same as the ones he used with respect to Kentucky -- I suppose he wants everyone to believe that "I am focused on Florida" == "I am staying at Florida".  But we all know better, don't we, Wildcat fans?

Peter Kerasotis of Florida Today has a column looking at the Donovan situation, and asks a question that I think all Kentucky fans have asked before about a different guy:

Just like when the Kentucky job was open, Billy still can't utter the four words that would stop runaway rumors: I am not interested. It's really not that hard. But he can't do it. Meanwhile, it cost him top recruit Patrick Patterson, who chose UK over UF because he wasn't sure Donovan would be around to coach him.

Even if Donovan does sign his contract extension with UF (and I think the signing of the Treaty of Versailles happened quicker), he's created a lot of doubt for future recruits. Really, does anyone believe he won't one day go to the NBA? . . .

Why won't Billy D. utter those words?  I'll tell you why -- because it would be a lie.  Donovan has made no secret about his desire to move to the NBA under favorable circumstances.  The only question is, will those circumstances emerge this year, or next year or the year after that?

Billy Donovan may end up staying at Florida for years and years, but if he does, it won't be because he doesn't want the bigger, better deal.  Instead, it will be because nobody has offered it to him yet.  Did his weak denials affect his success with Patterson?  Maybe, on the margins, but I think proximity to home was a much bigger factor.  But I'll bet you one thing -- I'll bet Jai Lucas is feeling very uncomfortable with his decision right about now, and Patterson ... well, isn't.

Many of us at Kentucky hated bringing up the rear as the destination of our coach's ambition, and we may yet feel that sting again with our new coach in a few years if he is successful.  But what of Florida fans?  Well, they are a proud bunch, and rightly so.  They aren't used to getting treated this way in football, so I don't expect it to be too long before they will grow tired of being Donovan's "palentine" instead of his heart's desire.

I am hearing talk that Calasan has been offered a scholarship.  No official confirmation yet, though.

Update [2007-5-29 17:37:27 by Truzenzuzex]:  Matt Mowery over at The Sports Guys blog has written an excellent post arguing that Billy Donovan makes the Florida basketball program a star, and the Kentucky program makes its coaches stars.  He makes a compelling argument -- but I am not quite convinced a coach like Thad Matta or John Thompson III couldn't continue Florida's success if Donovan left, and surely the Gators are high-profile enough now to attract a name-brand coach.

I'm conflicted on this one -- what say you?