Just The Big Picture
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: The Bluegrass State
Re: Billy Donovan and UK...
Here's an interesting take...
Donovan to Kentucky Rumor Grows Wings
Posted Mar 27th 2007 3:12AM by Ryan Ferguson
The rumors swirling around Billy Donovan's potential departure from Florida to Kentucky seem to grow stronger and swifter, like a river of doubt bursting free of its weakened levee.
With late-breaking news on Monday night -- still coming from unsubstantiated sources, mind you -- indicating that via a bizarre media screw-up, details of Donovan's pending contract with Kentucky were either accidentally or intentionally leaked, it is starting to feel as though there must be something to the rumor.
And when television stations run the story, you have to wonder if it isn't a rumor at all.
WLEX-18, Lexington's NBC affiliate news station, reports the following as of 12:52 AM EDT:
CatsPause: UK Ready To Name Donovan
According to Darrell Bird of CatsPause.com, UK is poised to name Billy Donovan its new basketball coach after Florida's final game in the NCAA Tournament.
According to CatsPause.com, the reported package is a seven year deal worth $3.5 million per year. The report further states there is a $3.5 million loyalty bonus if Donovan completes all seven years.
There are some important things to note here:
1. Catspause.com, the popular Kentucky fan site, is the source of the story. While I'm not suggesting that Catspause is an unreliable source, it is a far cry from the Kentucky athletic department or some other source which can make an official announcement regarding Kentucky's head coaching vacancy. Catspause is on very thin ice here; the site's trustworthiness as a news source hinges upon the validity of the story. If the "news" turns out to instead be a rumor, Catspause would become the laughingstock of the Rivals network. In theory, Darrell Bird would be aware of those potential pitfalls before running the story.
2. The news comes on the heels of Donovan's Monday afternoon television appearance on ESPN's PTI. In his interview with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, Florida's head basketball coach did not do a very good job dodging questions about Kentucky. Donovan used the phrase "right now" seven times:
Tony Kornheiser: "Are you going to take a look at Kentucky?"
Donovan: "No, right now I'm going to focus on our team, Tony. Right now, that's the most important thing. Uh, my opinion is, we've worked so hard, and have had to deal with so much this season, that right now my only focus is our basketball team and this opportunity to play in the Final Four and to play against UCLA. And I really haven't given anything -- other than -- any, any other thought -- I, I can honestly tell you that in my opinion, when it comes to those situations, Billy Donovan or any coach is not the decision-making factor in those things. My focus right now is just totally on Florida."
Tony Kornheiser: "But down the road, in a few weeks, if someone comes knocking, would you at least answer the phone, or open the door?"
Donovan: "Well, my, my thing right now is that I just want to focus on our team. I'm happy at the University of Florida. I love our kids. I love our program. I love the administration. I love what's been able to take place here. But right now, I'm not going to sit there and forecast two weeks from now, a week from now, ten days from now. My total focus right now is UCLA and the University of Florida."
Matt Jones from Kentucky Sports Radio is, as usual, right on top of it:
I normally dont post multiple times in one evening, but lots has happened in the last hour. I must say, the Kentucky news media is abuzz about the Cats Pause story tonight that Billy Donovan and UK have reached a deal that will make Donovan the new coach at Kentucky. The news has been reported on WAVE in Louisville, WLEX in Lexington (which went with the story at 11, the same time the Cats Pause report came out, suggesting it was intentional) and is now common knowledge. We here at Kentucky Sports Radio have found out that the folks at Florida, including the Athletic Director have been made aware of the story and it is now will become the top talk of tomorrow's sports day.
The question is whether this is good. From now until Monday, Billy Donovan will be forced to answer questions on the subject from not only the news media, but also likely his team and the university. What was before today a "wait until the season is over" story has now, thanks to the Darrell Bird story, become a "we have to ask you now" story. When you say a deal is done, folks want to know if the deal is done. That means that Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators are in for distractions aplenty.
I'm calling it right now: thanks to this report, whether it's a leak, malicious sabotage, or the God's honest truth, the Gators' chances of winning it all for the second year in a row have been severely compromised. Unless this is cleared up as a nasty and baseless rumor on Tuesday (and if that's what it is, heads should roll at W-LEX and Catspause.com's publisher should be forced to post a public retraction), Billy Donovan, his players, and the athletic department will be forced to address this issue multiple times per day until the matter is concluded. It is the kind of distraction which can end any chance of Florida playing at a top level against UCLA.
And if Billy Donovan is Kentucky-bound, which I'm starting to think is a very distinct possibility due to Donovan's evasiveness, you might as well rip my orange and blue heart out of my chest and stomp on it with a jackboot.
UPDATE 3:36 AM EDT (Tuesday): Catspause.com has run a new "Plan B" story which displaces the Donovan contract story from its headline position. Darrell Bird, the Catspause.com publisher, has posted a message on the site's message board indicating this is NOT a done deal and that the story was not intended for the widespread publication it received. Bird appears to be trying to relegate this story back to 'rumor' status.
...and here's a story from this morning's Louisville paper...
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
UPDATED: 8:29 AM
Web site rumor about Donovan to UK is just that
By Brett Dawson
LEXINGTON, Ky. – A message-board post on a Web site devoted to covering University of Kentucky athletics caused a stir last night and this morning by reporting a rumor that UK was close to naming Florida’s Billy Donovan its head basketball coach.
Darrell Bird, the general manager of The Cats’ Pause – a magazine and Web site that covers UK sports – posted on the site’s message board a rumor that he’d been hearing about the impending hire of Donovan to replace Tubby Smith, who resigned last week.
The story was picked up by several other media outlets and attributed to The Cats’ Pause, but Bird said this morning that the post was intended only to update his site’s subscribers on the status of a rumor he was finding difficult to disprove.
“Somehow it went from a discussion on our subscriber-only message board to (being reported as) done-deal fact,” Bird said. “We talk about rumors every day on our message board.”
Bird posted a link to the message board thread from the site’s home page.
That link appeared under a headline: “Blockbuster deal done?” And Bird’s initial message-board post included several details, including rumors of a seven-year contract for Donovan that would pay him $3.5 million annually.
Bird wrote that the deal was “reportedly brokered Thursday and Friday during a meeting with Donovan’s agent in Lexington.”
That post also said that the news wasn’t coming from official sources such as UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart or university president Lee Todd. But Bird wrote that “if this were the Kentucky Derby we’d be close enough to smell the blanket of roses.”
Still, Bird said he didn’t intend the story to be treated as a news report. Instead, he said, his intent was to keep subscribers updated on the status of a rumor that already had made the rounds on the site’s message boards over the weekend.
Bird called the story “a solid rumor,” but said he wouldn’t have printed it in his weekly column in The Cats’ Pause.
He said he sees a distinction between posting a rumor on his site’s message board and reporting news on the site’s front page or in the printed edition of the magazine.
“To me, the message boards are almost like the radio call-in shows,” Bird said. “It’s, ‘What are you hearing?’ It’s a back-and-forth medium.”
...and finally this from a CBS Sportsline editorial...
Hey, Billy -- the grass is greener in Kentucky
March 27, 2007
By Gregg Doyel
CBS SportsLine.com National Columnist
People from Florida believe Billy Donovan will blow off Kentucky because he already has the best job in the SEC.
These are my people -- Florida's my alma mater -- but they've lost their minds.
After winning his second consecutive national title in the next week, Donovan might not leave for Kentucky. But if he stays it won't be because Florida is a better job. It's not. It's not close. Next time I'm in a bad mood and in need of a giggle, I'm going to tell myself the Florida basketball job is as good as the one at Kentucky. That'll have me in stitches.
Do you understand why Florida is such a good job? Because Donovan's the one who has it.
Put anyone else in that office -- say, Lon Kruger -- and Florida fades. Kruger went to one Final Four but when he left in 1996, the Gators were coming off 17-13 and 12-16 seasons. Kruger's no slouch. Check out his current UNLV team, which won 30 games. He won at Kansas State. He won at Illinois. But he was 29-29 his last two years at Florida.
Norm Sloan won a national title at North Carolina State. Florida was so easy that he made it to the NCAA Tournament just three times in 15 seasons, and to get those three bids he had to wade knee-deep in NCAA violations.
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.