Billy Donovan made the right choice and now Jeremy Foley will have to as well. I know that some of you will want page 164 of the football media guide torn out after I made that statement (my name on it as a two year letterman) but wait, hear me out Gator Nation. Donovan made the right choice for him and his family. “Billy the Kid” is now “William the Wealthy” and the eighth Orlando Magic head coach.
Florida basketball reached heights that no one, not even Foley himself, could have ever dreamed of. Billy built the program and showed the University of Florida how to become totally committed to hoops and still be great in football. The Gators are up to number three in licensing because of Billy Donovan, Joakim Noah and the rest of the 04s. Gator basketball is on top of the college hoops world and there is no where to go but down, even if it is just a minor step back to being a perennial tournament team.
Everywhere I looked today people were pointing fingers. Did Billy drag it out on purpose to flirt with the NBA? Was Foley overconfident and take his sweet time getting the proposal together? Who the heck runs the board of regents and why do they meet so infrequently? Patrick Patterson was the final straw! Some booster offended Donovan! Where’s the new arena for Gator hoops? I even heard that Pat McMahon begged Billy to leave to distract Foley from looking at the Gator Baseball program … okay, just kidding but I heard it all today and some or none of it may be true.
I have an interesting perspective on Billy Donovan and Orlando because I work in radio in both markets. My first month on the job in O-Town I said Brian Hill could not coach and he looked like a guy calling plays for Shaq and Penny. Apparently he was, and even though I took some heat for trying to be the new guy who was “stirring it up” he was not the right fit for the Magic.
I also work in Gainesville on radio and have covered every postseason game for the Gators the last two years. If you have listened to my show (thanks if you do) I have been very consistent with my belief that Donovan would coach in the NBA someday and that Gator fans should enjoy the ride. Billy has always treated me fairly and we have a lot in common. He believes in family and being a workaholic. He is also involved with several really good charities and has always taken time to help me with mind. We also share the same management company (agent) in Career Sports Entertainment. Lonnie Cooper founded the company and is Billy’s guy, while my agent works in the television wing of the business. But I can tell you these are good people and in no way are they the “slimy” image that some agents give off. Lonnie Cooper works for Billy Donovan and has his best interests in mind.
So let me me give my two cents worth since everyone else has.
I think Billy Donovan took the job because he wants to be around his family more. Imagine that? A professional coaching job where you spend more time with your family? Billy will not have to recruit so if nothing else the workaholic can sleep in his own bed and be within a phone call of his family 90% of the time. College basketball recruiting is more taxing than football in that there really is no clear definition of when you stop and when you begin recruiting season. It seems to be year round and wide spread around the country. You don’t have a staff of nine assistants like football and football has months of time out of season where you are not on the road.
Gator fans should thank Billy and root for him and Orlando to be successful. He is the Steve Spurrier of Gator hoops. Jeremy Foley will hire a winner and the Gator program will not just fade away into the sunset. They have a beautiful practice facility, a loud home arena, some good recent tradition and a great fan base. Who wouldn’t want to coach at the University of Florida?
I realize he is getting more money and Orlando is unique in it’s proximity and it has a young roster which made the postseason in 2007. He will drive to work every day and go home every day the same way. He can leave work on an “off day” in season at a reasonable time and watch his son play. I think Billy Donovan made the right choice. Yes, this is my reason for Billy Donovan leaving the Gator Dynasty that he built: Family. “William the Wealthy” made the right call. Good luck Billy we are going to miss you in Gainesville! Although I will be seeing more of you in Orlando!