Donovan Again Asked About Kentucky Job

ATLANTA, GA — It wasn’t a matter of if the question would be asked, only a matter of when and by whom. Sooner or later during Billy Donovan’s turn at the podium at the Georgia Dome to face the Final Four media, someone had to ask the Florida coach if he’s had any contact with the University of Kentucky about their vacant coaching job.

Sure enough, near the end of his 15 minutes talking to the media, the question came: “Have you or anybody in your circle — athletic director, agent, family — been contacted by Kentucky or any other school?”

Right. Like it’s the eve of the Final Four, he’s going for a second straight NCAA championship and he’s entertaining offers from Kentucky and other schools?

Pullleeezzze. Give me a break.

Better yet, give Billy Donovan a break and somebody out there — someone who has at least enough sense to come in out of the rain — please take into account that the University of Kentucky is a standup institution with a reputation for doing things in a first class manner. Do you really think Kentucky would be in contact with Billy Donovan the week before the Final Four?

If you said yes, then take a moment and let’s apply a little bit of logic into this equation.

First off, it’s pretty much common knowledge that it’s really, really hard to get to the Final Four even one time much less win a national championship. Getting here is tough. Winning the national championship is at least a hundred times tougher than that.

Now, think about getting back to the Final Four the year AFTER winning the national championship. Check your record book and take a look at how rare that happens, particularly since we’ve gone to a 65-team field in the NCAA Tournament. Now consider the odds of repeating as national champions.

Logic would tell you that given the difficulty factor of getting here for a chance to repeat, no coach in his right mind would be thinking about anything except playing basketball at a time like this. The coach would have to be nuts.

Now since we’re using logic, let’s take it a step further. Bear with me, folks. I’m making sense.

The season ends in three more days. Once the season ends, there’s all the time in the world for the folks at Kentucky to talk about their vacant coaching position with Billy Donovan.

Now throw this on the fire. If you’re a school like Kentucky, which has more basketball wins and more basketball tradition than anyone out there, why would you contact Billy Donovan during the week before his team tries to repeat?

If anyone understands how tough it is to get to Final Fours it’s the folks at the University of Kentucky. They’ve got seven national championship banners hanging from the Rupp Arena rafters. They expect to be in every Final Four and any season that ends with something other than a national championship is considered something less than successful. Nobody but nobody understands the difficulty of getting to the Final Four more than Kentucky and nobody understands how precious it is to come home with that championship trophy.

That’s why the Kentucky people, of all people, understand Billy’s answer to the question: “I haven’t even thought about any of that stuff. My total focus is really on UCLA. That’s the most important thing. I don’t even have my phone. I don’t talk to anybody. The minute I get on the road, I give my phone to my secretary. I’ve talked to nobody. All I’ve done, to be honest with you, is get a lot of bloodshot eyes right now from watching a lot of tape. That’s all I do.”

Now, we all know that the thought of Billy Donovan coming to Lexington has the collective Big Blue Nation faithful drooling so much that there are flood warnings all the way from Owensboro to Ashland. They want Billy Donovan bad. The Kentucky athletic administration knows this and it would like nothing more than to give the folks exactly what they want. But they don’t want him distracted. Not now.

He’s far more valuable to them — if they can get him — having won TWO NCAA titles in a row. What a statement that would be to recruits that the lure of Kentucky basketball is so strong that the coach of the TWO-TIME NCAA champs would bolt Florida for the bluegrass.

So while the Kentucky faithful are lathered up over the thought that Billy might come back to Lexington, all the talk is pure speculation or rumor and none of it’s coming from the Kentucky athletic department. This rumor of a $3.5 million a year signed, sealed and delivered deal that came from a Kentucky website Monday night? Strictly rumor. This “leak” from the Kentucky athletic department that says they’re prepared to offer Billy a $1 million raise to leave Florida for Lexington? Like we’re expected to believe that the Kentucky athletic director is already spreading the word to the faithful what he’s about to put on the table? Mitch Barnhardt may not be the second coming of Einstein but he’s certainly not dumb enough to tip his hand so that Jeremy Foley and Bernie Machen know in advance what it’s going to cost to keep Billy at Florida.

So forget the rumors. Forget the “leaks” and the other garbage. Here’s what you can know for sure. Kentucky hasn’t contacted Billy Donovan yet. Kentucky will come calling — you can bet the farm on that — AFTER Florida’s season ends and when Big Blue calls, you can expect the offer to be substantial.

At that point, when there are no longer the distractions of winning a national championship, Billy Donovan will take the time to hear Kentucky out. That’s fair — fair for Billy since he deserves to know what his true market value is and fair for Kentucky since it’s a great program that deserves a great coach.

He will listen to Kentucky and he will listen to Florida. Whatever Kentucky offers will be discussed with athletic director Jeremy Foley and University of Florida president Bernie Machen.

Then there will be a decision.

You can spend the next four days worrying about what Billy might do, but listen to what he said Friday when he was pressed further about the Kentucky job.

“To me, I love the University of Florida,” Donovan said. “I love my experiences. I love everything about it. I love coaching my team. I love our administration. It’s been great. I mean, I’m very, very happy here right now.”

Those aren’t the words of someone planning to bolt the University of Florida. But give him a few days to clear up minor little details such as the next two basketball games and hearing out the Kentucky people.

Then let him choose. You won’t be disappointed.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.