Sometimes things are funny in hindsight. How about this little ditty from Dick Vitale on how much Billy Donovan loves Florida, from early April:
The big announcement came out of Gainesville — Billy Donovan is staying on as Florida basketball coach.
Was I surprised by this development? Absolutely not. I said it during our SportsCenter Final Four coverage beginning on Thursday, then repeated it all weekend and through Monday night. I kept telling the nation over and over again that he would not be leaving.
Why did I feel so positive about this situation? It is all about loyalty, my friends. He is about being proud of what he has achieved. There are the back-to-back national championships, but also nine NCAA appearances when the University of Florida had a total of five trips before his arrival to Gainesville. The Gators had one Final Four trip before Donovan; he has led them there three times. He has put together something special, a dominant team in the SEC.
Donovan loves Gainesville. He and his wife have worked dilligently to help build a new Catholic high school. His son plays on the varsity team as a freshman there, and Billy’s dad serves as a coach at that school.
The family lives in Gainesville and loves it there. Donovan also has a terrific relationship with athletic director Jeremy Foley, who gave him an opportunity at Florida. Donovan was at Marshall prior to joining the Gators and he appreciates the chance he was given. Besides, he is not going to starve coaching at Florida as the coach and athletic director will finalize a contract extension in the near future. They pay well in Gator Country, baby!
Also in the near future, Florida will name the court in Donovan’s honor. That, my friends, is truly special. Go ask Mike Krzyzewski, Lute Olson and others that have been bestowed that honor while actively coaching. The Rowdy Reptiles will go bananas, celebrating like you will not believe.
Donovan also likes the idea of a challenge. He will face one now that all five starters won’t be back. Lee Humphrey was a senior, and the junior quartet of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green and Corey Brewer announced their plans to enter the NBA draft. Chris Richard, a top reserve, was also a senior. hat means the Gators lose over 83 percent of the points scored from the 2006-07 national champions.
What a great moment for Foley to hear that Donovan was remaining a Gator! When you talk about the two revenue-producing sports, there is no doubt that the premier combo in America is in Gainesville with Mr. Donovan and Mr. Urban Meyer. It doesn’t get better than that with three national titles between the two of them.
Now Donovan can go out and recruit, recruit, recruit. He has Nick Calathes leading a group of newcomers coming in for next season. He has Walter Hodge, Marreese Speights, Dan Werner, Jonathan Mitchell and Brandon Powell returning. Two big-name recruits are on Florida’s radar — Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas — and if they go to Gainesville, watch out.
Donovan will reload the way he did when guys like Mike Miller, David Lee, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh moved on. The names on the back of the jersey will change, but this program will be an SEC contender for years to come.
Now what will happen at Kentucky? You can be sure that Kentucky will provide every opportunity for the new coach to succeed. They will accept nothing less and mediocrity will never prevail in Rupp Country! It is all about being the best and the standard of excellence is very high.
The coaching carousel keeps on revolving. For Florida and the Rowdy Reptiles, there is true joy as Donovan is staying put.