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Donovan and Gillispie: A Study in Contrasts

Well, today it is officially official -- The Orlando Magic and Billy Donovan have parted ways and moved on.  The Orlando Sun-Sentinel has the details, including a pretty sincere apology by Donovan that I applaud.

I have pilloried Donovan over the last few days for what I see as an unethical act, but a sincere public apology is always the best way to begin the recovery process.  Billy D. is unquestionably a fine coach, and I believe him to be a good man. However, Donovan made a serious error in judgment, then compounded that error by not sticking to his commitment.  But it appears to me that he recognizes and accepts responsibility for the damage he did, regrets it, and both he and the Magic are ready to sever relations without a major legal bloodbath.

The University of Florida just seems happy to have their coach back, and figures that good fortune makes up for any damage to its image (and there has been some, make no mistake).  I am sure Jeremy Foley wants to pat Billy D. on the back with one hand and wring his neck with the other, but I think that the Gators have reached the point of "All's well that ends well."  Good for them, and I am personally happy to have Donovan back at Florida, and join their fans in well-wishes.

Lonnie Wheeler of the Cincinnati Enquirer has an outstanding article on Billy Gillispie today which provides fodder for commentary on the contrast between how life is going for the two coaches.

In the last few weeks, Gillispie not only seems enamored with the UK job, but has enjoyed spectacular success on the recruiting trail, scoring commitments by Alex Legion and Patrick Patterson to matriculate to Kentucky.  Donovan has had some success recruiting by signing Jai Lucas, but his personal and professional life have been, if you'll pardon the understatement, somewhat uneven.

Much of Donovan's lack of a blissful 60 days has been due to his actual success coaching the Gators to two consecutive national championships.  The constant media attention and high-profile opportunities that inevitably follow such a successful run has proven, ultimately, to be too much for Billy D.  He has handled his recent life highlights rather poorly, I would say -- weasel-words and outright dissimulation to the media and his team about his obvious NBA interest, leaving Florida for the Magic and then magically reappearing at Florida under unfortunate circumstances.

But Billy G., on the other hand, seems to revel in the attention while remaining humble.  In contrast to Donovan, it is not Gillispie's success as UK coach which brings him the attention and love of the fans, but the promise of a return to the halcyon days that Florida are just leaving behind.  Most of us remember those days, they weren't all that long ago, and yearn to find ourselves living them again.  It is this promise which brings out the passion and adoration of fans toward the new leader of the Big Blue Nation, and Gillispie is handling it spectacularly well.

But just as fame is fleeting, so are the days of fawning and back-slapping.  There is work to be done on the floor, and while Billy Gillispie has shown that he can get it done at lesser basketball programs like Texas A&M and UTEP, the move up to Kentucky is a huge jump in class, as they say in the horse racing biz.  Billy Donovan has proven his mettle at the helm of Florida, and frankly, has nothing left to prove there.  Compared to Donovan, Gillispie has proven nothing except that he has handled his spotlight a lot better than Donovan did in an overlapping time frame.

So, my Big Blue brothers and sisters, how do you think these two will contrast 180 days from now?  240?  We'll have to wait and see, but I think it is safe to say it will be a very fun ride.

Update [2007-6-7 13:15:56 by Truzenzuzex]:  Billy Donovan holds a presser about the whole Florida-Magic-Florida thing.  I agree in large part with Gatorpilot over at Orange and Blue Hue that Billy D. showed a lot of class, accepted full responsibility and apologized to the injured parties.  Kudos to Donovan for demonstrating to all of us the proper way to begin a recovery of his reputation from an incident that clearly damaged it.