Like many out there, I was more than a bit disappointed when Billy Donovan decided to ditch the Gators for the supposedly greener pastures of the NBA. As soon as I heard the news of his sudden departure, I knew that the move would in no way, shape, or form, be for his professional betterment, as much as he originally thought. Why he would leave the collegiate ranks, where he can teach, shape, and mold both basketball players and men; for the NBA, where he would not nearly be as respected by overpaid, underdisciplined players making several times his salary, just did not make any sense, at least to myself. Before his sudden departure, Coach Donovan could have remained at Gainesville the rest of his professional coaching career should he have so decided. His career would be defined not simply by winning 2 NCAA College Basketball titles, but by also having made Florida a perrenial national collegiate power. To take an NBA coaching job with a team which could conceivably languish for years without any real success would serve as a significant blot on an otherwise succesful coaching career.
What has made Donovan such a success in the NCAA is that he a master motivator whose enthusiam and passion for the game is accepted by his players; and it is their discipline, effort, and enthusiam which is tangible on the court. I don’t think his style and coaching persona would have translated well into the NBA, and he made the right decision by staying in Gainesville- although he should have made that decision prior to signing a long term contract with Orlando. His indecision about his future and subsequently renegging on his contract only served to create confusion in Gainseville and alienate Magic fans, as well as possibly costing UF several top recruiting prospects. It’s great to see Donovan back where he belongs, but his change of heart has cost himself a great deal of capital, at least in terms of credibility, in the broader Florida sports market. Welcome back, Billy- time to take that second victory lap on the UF Beer and Bar-B-Q talk circuit.