Entitled to Do What He Wants

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By John Feinstein
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

ATLANTA

Last April, soon after Florida had crushed UCLA to win the national championship, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino got a call from a friend. "How about Billy the Kid?" the friend said, referring to Pitino's former player and assistant coach, Billy Donovan.

"Can't call him Billy the Kid anymore," Pitino answered. "From now on, he's Bill the Coach."

Right now he's Billy the Coach.

After Florida's 84-75 victory over Ohio State on Monday night made the Gators the first back-to-back NCAA men's basketball champions since Duke in 1991-92, Donovan sits atop the college basketball world with suitors everywhere he looks.

In fact, the first question Donovan was asked in his post-midnight, postgame news conference early Tuesday morning was about his interest in the Kentucky job.

"Geesh, I just got off the court," Donovan said. "There will be time for all of that later."

"All of that" probably is an accurate way to cast it. Donovan can just about name his price almost anywhere. He has two years left on a contract at Florida that pays him $1.7 million per year. Chances are the school will double that if that's what it will take to keep him in Gainesville. Kentucky will offer the world, but with all that comes the crazed "basketball is religion" notion that drove Tubby Smith to Minnesota.

There's also the NBA. As of Tuesday, at least three teams -- Miami, Memphis and Charlotte -- reportedly were interested in hiring Donovan. Any of those teams probably would be willing and able to pay more than either Kentucky or Florida.

Like any young, ambitious coach, Donovan is bound to be tempted by a new challenge, especially the NBA. He coached at Kentucky under Pitino and might think that a place where basketball is the focal point would be more enjoyable than Florida, where football coach Urban Meyer will be king even if Donovan were to win the next 10 national championships.

That would be a mistake. Perhaps Donovan should talk to Texas Coach Rick Barnes, who many people believe is second on Kentucky's wish list.

"I think I have one of the five best jobs in the country," Barnes said last week. "We can recruit in Texas and we can recruit nationally. We're good enough to contend nationally. And if we lose in the second round of the tournament [as the Longhorns did this year], the whole state isn't crying for my head."


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