Last week, we lamented the loss of Rhonda Faehn, but we understood because she was moving on to a better position that more aligned with her overall career aspirations. We understood, but fans were still upset that, in my opinion, the best coach Jeremy Foley has ever hired had moved on. Found a better position. Realized that there was life outside of Gainesville, Fla.
And this week, in what seemed to be constantly looming since April 22, 2015, basketball coach Billy Donovan found that there were greener pastures in Oklahoma City, Okla, when he replaced fired head coach Scott Brooks as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Again, fans understood. They were sad, left without a direction, and perhaps, felt like the program that Billy Donovan built over the last 19 years, may no longer be.
In each of these cases, fans realized that both made better career moves – maybe even once in a lifetime opportunities.
But fans are now left wondering what’s next?
Without a doubt over the last decade, the football, basketball, and gymnastics teams are the best were among the best in the country. They had seven combined National Championships since 2005 with 10 SEC regular season championships. Dominant. All around dominance.
And in the last two weeks: Both Faehn and Donovan gone – a combined 814-272. While four months ago, the Gators replaced their head football coach with Jim McElwain.
Yes, three of the most successful programs in the country will replace its head coach in all three, leaving Jeremy Foley with about as tough a task as you could ask of an Athletic Director. Foley should be up for the task because this could be the last major defining act of his illustrious career.
A Quick Ode to Billy
One of the biggest advantages of “Thoughts of the Week” is that it gives me time to figure out how to opine on Florida Gators athletics, but at the same time, it also allows others to say things days before me. So I will not harp on it too much, but I wanted to say, “Thank you, Billy Donovan”.
You were a great coach at the University of Florida. Your 467-186 record proves that. Your two National Championships proves that. Your four trips to the Final Four proves that. Your four SEC Tournament Championships and six SEC regular season championships proves that. Your three-time SEC coach of the year award proves that.
Moreover, you put 19 Gators into the NBA since 1996. How many made it to the NBA before you took over? Six.
But more than that, you were a great leader and mentor to your players and fellow assistant coaches. You had a graduation rate of 80 percent, eight points higher than the average of 72. You helped develop leaders on the basketball court and groomed assistant coaches – you were more than just someone that drew up plays, you helped make men and helped groom careers.
Thank you on behalf of Gator Nation.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love to poke fun at “Hot Takes”, or positions people take without much basis, or opinions that people have that are just there to cause an up-roar – think Skip Bayless.
I normally hate them, but I have one this week.
Now, I know I just applauded Billy Donovan and wrote an ode to him, I have to say, I don’t believe that the Oklahoma City job is as great as many people believe.
Primarily, the contract situation is fickle at best. Kevin Durant, Enis Kanter, and DJ Augustin all have expiring contracts at the end of next season, while Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka expire the year after, with the only three players signed past 2016/2017 being Steven Adams, Mitch McGary, and Andre Roberson. Not ideal. Now I don’t believe that all of them will leave, I do worry that Kevin Durant will likely not come back and Russell Westbrook could have the same fate.
Kevin Durant has publically said that Oklahoma City is a tough city to draw free agents to, and he particularly mentioned Pau Gasol last offseason. He has been linked to Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, and other large markets where he could be the star of a major market when he becomes a free agent next year.
While this is all subjective, it is realistic too. If Oklahoma City loses Durant, it loses a major contributor and likely a main reason Donovan chose OKC. And if Durant stays, is it likely that Westbrook leaves to become a star elsewhere?
We have heard rumors of tension between Durant and Westbrook and each could leave to become the next major player for a new team outside of the small OKC market place.
Remember, Oklahoma City’s team was built upon the draft, not by attracting major free agents, which when you look at the major contenders in the NBA Playoffs, is required. Sure, San Antonio built their team on draft picks, but that is more of an exception than the rule.
In my opinion, Oklahoma City becomes a tough place to become coach if they can’t retain Durant or Westbrook, which is far from a sure thing.
Congratulations to the Softball team – SEC champions again. Tim Walton has turned the Gators softball program into one of the consistently top programs in the NCAA and will look to defend their 2014 National Championship.
Winning the SEC Championship, like always, was tough. The SEC currently has four programs in the top-10 and nine in the top-25.
Congratulations to them!
Football Recruiting Quick Thought
The Gators have secured another commitment from cornerback C.J. McWilliams – a two-star from Southwest High School (Miami, Fla.).
The Gators now four players that are not currently ranked by Rivals.com and many people are starting to complain that they are surprised that UF is taking these players.
My initial thoughts are – wait. We have a whole summer of evaluations, the most important part of next year’s rankings, and a fall season ahead of us.
While some of these players seem like reaches to you, each has earned their offer after being evaluated by the coaches. McWilliams most recently was evaluated by Randy Shannon and offered a scholarship. Had McWilliams not proved to Shannon that he was worthy of an offer, than he would not have received one.
Moreover, just because a player is committed now, does not mean that they will automatically be included in the class. McElwain is in the same class as Nick Saban – if you don’t cut your senior year or slack off, you could find yourself elsewhere.
I would trust the coaches now – you have no reason not to, yet.
My Top Five Basketball Coach Picks
- Chris Mack
- Archie Miller
- Ed Cooley
- Larry Krystkowiak
- Michael White
My Top Five Gymnastics Coach Picks
- K.J. Kindler
- Jeff Graba
- Elise Ray
- Kristen Maloney
- Lou Ball
Amazing Fact of the Day
Remember the “Game of the Century”? The 2011 game between No. 2 LSU and No. 1 Alabama?
Well, after the draft this past week a final total was announced of number of people drafted from that game – 48. Yes, 48! Alabama had 26 players and LSU had 22 players selected over the last four drafts. Amazing.
While the game was billed as a “defensive battle”, it wasn’t that great of a game, in my opinion. And was more crappy offense than great defense. But still, amazing stat.
Must Read Articles of the Week
- Jay Kirk | The American City Where Sex Offenders Live
- Michael J. Mooney | The Worst Parents Ever
- Alan Levinovitz | An Alternative-Medicine Believer’s Journey Back to Science
- Sacha Feinman | Freddie Roach Is the Best Damned Trainer Alive
- Richard Deitsch | How a college radio host landed an interview with ESPN’s John Skipper
Song of the Week
A lot of you really enjoyed the Red Dirt country of last week. So let’s look at another artist: Aaron Watson.