Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan willing be packing up and moving to coach the Orlando Magic for $28 million. Coming off of back-to-back national championships, it appears that Donovan feels that the time is right for him to make a jump to the NBA.
There will naturally be two major comparisons after this decision: 1. The comparison of Donovan’s NBA move to Rick Pitino’s NBA move 2. The comparison between Donovan and his replacement. Whether or not both comparisons are fair, it will be interesting to see Donovan and his replacement try to handle the burdens of the comparisons. Sports networks, specifically ESPN, are always trying to find some connection or similarities between a current sports story and a past story. Sadly, the fans will suffer too when they are forced to hear about it non-stop.
The current favorite to replace Donovan at Florida is VCU head coach Anthony Grant. Coach Grant is not only a former Donovan assistant, he is also a former Florida High School coach with a record of 172-11 while coaching in Miami. He is 41 years of age and is held in high regard in the state of Florida. He may well be the easiest coaching choice for transitional purposes.
The more I read about Grant, to more I want to like him. He won a conference championship at VCU and beat Duke in the NCAA tournament. However, I have to wonder if UF is simply trying to recreate a Donovan type success story/ coach with Grant. A major reason for hiring Grant is due to his Billy Donovan connections (10 years at Florida, 2 years at Marshall). He is a sure fire up and comer, but I wonder if he is ready for the spotlight in the best program in the country right now. Plus, they beat the worst Duke team in over 10 years.
I know people may say, “Florida is a football school first”, and I agree with them to a certain point. But, when you give a fanbase what Donovan provided, some spoiling will naturally occur. They certainly won’t try to run him out of town, but it is a gigantic step in Grant’s coaching career (he has not been a college head coach for very long).
I do feel like Grant is a good hire overall. He may have some issues early, but I feel that his high school connections will be helpful for him. His biggest challenge now is to keep the current recruiting class, and to calm the nerves of the Florida Gator faithful. He must prove that the program will be in good hands to both.
Donovan will also have to battle with the shadow of Rick Pitino’s move to the NBA after the 1997 season. A lot of people will start to offer up the belief that Donovan is somehow just like Pitino for making this move. Try to remember how much people talked about Rick Pitino when Florida won a national title, now consider how annoying it will be to hear it for the rest of your NBA coaching career. He will surely have a mess on his hands in Orlando. Best of luck Billy, you’ll need it all.
Longest post ever is done!