The day Donovan showed up in 1996, Florida was not a great job. By the time Florida made its NCAA Tournament debut in 1987, Kentucky had won five national championships. Kentucky has won two more since then.
Yes, Florida won a national title last year. And Florida probably will win it again this year. That makes Donovan a great, great great coach, and because of him, Florida is now a great job.
But better than Kentucky? Come on. The Wildcats have had one losing season since 1927. One.
Kentucky fans have taken heat this week over the gutless scurrying of Tubby Smith to Minnesota, but UK has the best support in the country. Midnight Madness fills 23,000-seat Rupp Arena. Every game is a sellout. Thousands travel, including to the 2007 SEC Tournament at Atlanta, where a so-so UK team led by an unpopular coach had a significantly bigger turnout than defending national champion Florida. Only 500 fans followed Florida to New Orleans for the NCAA Tournament, by the way.
Kentucky is such a good job that, despite its uncharismatic coach and unhappy fans and back-to-back mediocre seasons (for Kentucky), the Wildcats are among the final two or three schools for stud Class of 2007 recruits Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas. Another finalist for those players was Florida, which found itself battling Kentucky on nearly even terms even with the charismatic Donovan, giddy fans and the 2006 NCAA title banner.
Kentucky's the better job in the long run, and the truth is, Kentucky might not be much worse in the short term. Not that Kentucky's in great shape right now. It isn't. Ten years after inheriting a cupboard of NBA talent from Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith leaves behind a roster of spiderwebs and broken dishes.
Kentucky's starting five next season looks like Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford and Jodie Meeks on the perimeter, inexperienced 7-foot-2 Jared Carter at center and 6-9 sophomore Perry Stevenson at power forward. That's not terrible, but it's not terribly attractive.
But consider the potential upheaval at Florida, where the top six players could leave. Shooting guard Lee Humphrey and sixth man Chris Richard are seniors. The rest are juniors, and after turning down the NBA a year ago, lottery picks Joakim Noah and Al Horford and first-rounder Corey Brewer are unlikely to do it again. If those five leave, why would probable second-round pick Taurean Green stick around?
Here is Florida's possible starting five next season: junior Walter Hodge and freshman Nick Calathes at guard, sophomores Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell at forward, and sophomore Marreese Speights at center. Is that better than Kentucky's five? Tough call.
Which is why leaving for Kentucky should be fairly easy for Donovan. It's the second-best job in the country behind Roy Williams' chair at North Carolina, and if UK fans are demanding, big deal. Do you think Donovan, who won at Marshall and won huge at Florida, thinks for one second he wouldn't win massively at Kentucky? Please.
And winning next season would actually be pretty easy for Donovan because Patterson and Lucas would follow him to Kentucky. That's only a guess, but it's a damn good guess.
Donovan surely must feel loyalty to Florida, but after 11 years he should be able to leave without being called an ingrate. Eleven years has been long enough for Donovan to see Florida's limitations first-hand, losing his top guard from each of the last two recruiting classes because they couldn't get past the Florida admissions board. One of those guards, Doneal Mack, played a key role for Memphis' Elite Eight team this season.
If you can play, you can get into Kentucky. That's not a rip. That's a fact.
If you can coach and recruit, you can win enormously at Kentucky. That, too, is a fact. Florida fans would argue that Donovan has won enormously at Florida, and that's true. At Florida, Donovan has made winning look easy.
At Kentucky, it would be easy.