Facebook Twitter

Gators’ Donovan staying at Florida

SHARE Gators’ Donovan staying at Florida
Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Donovan wanted to stay. His star players knew it was time to go.

Donovan spurned a chance to return to Kentucky and take over the tradition-rich program, saying Thursday he hopes to build the same in Gainesville.

He'll have to do it without Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. The four juniors will enter the NBA draft, saying they have accomplished all they could at Florida.

"I'm happy and I'm sad," Donovan said. "Happy because I've never seen a group of kids grow the way these guys have grown and sad that I'm not going to have a chance to coach them anymore. I do not expect any of them back here next year. Their commitment, their focus, is trying to further their careers in the game of basketball.

"When they put their minds to something they're usually very, very successful at doing it."

Donovan and the foursome led the Gators to consecutive national championships, capping the coach's 11 years and setting the foundation for a program he hopes will someday be mentioned with the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and UCLA.

The Gators became the first team to win back-to-back titles since Duke in 1992. But following Monday night's 84-75 victory against Ohio State, Donovan's future had become the biggest question mark surrounding Florida.

Donovan acknowledged interest in the Kentucky job this week, saying he had a lot of admiration for the Wildcats. But he also said he intended to stay in Gainesville.

He proved it Thursday.

"It's all about where you're at in life and what's going to make you happy," Donovan said. "I'm happy here at Florida. I love the University of Florida."

It's time for Plan B at Kentucky.

Donovan's decision to remain at Florida left the field wide open Thursday in the search for Tubby Smith's replacement.

Two weeks after Smith left for Minnesota, his job at college basketball's all-time winningest program remains open, leaving fans squirming as Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart pleaded for patience.

"We have had productive conversations with various individuals over the last two weeks, and it's obvious that there are a number of outstanding coaches who could succeed at Kentucky," Barnhart said. "I'm confident we'll find the right man."

Who that'll be is anybody's guess.

Names from all over the college basketball landscape have been bandied about: Texas coach Rick Barnes, Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Memphis coach John Calipari.

All four are proven winners. Izzo won a national title with the Spartans in 2000. Barnes and Calipari have led teams to the Final Four, and Gillispie has turned the Aggies from also-rans to contenders in just three years.