Friday, June 01, 2007

For Donovan, move to NBA is "win-win".

After leading the University of Florida to a second consecutive national basketball championship this past April, coach Billy Donovan is headed to the pros.

"My decision to come here had nothing to do with the University of Florida. ... This is a totally different environment," Donovan said Friday when introduced as coach of the Orlando Magic.

Donovan and the Magic agreed to terms Thursday in a whirlwind deal that turned Florida basketball upside down. For a long time, he was said to be leaving. But he quieted speculation two months ago by declining a job at Kentucky.

Donovan accepted a five-year, $27.5 million contract, which pays more than twice the annual $1.7 million he was making at Florida and the $3 million he was expected to earn on an extension there he had yet to sign.

I find I’m in the minority when I say this is a good move for Donovan. Indeed, many point to the failings of other big-time college coaches who attempt a career in the NBA. Rick Pitino (192-220 NBA coaching record), John Calipari (72-112), Lon Kruger (69-122) and Tim Floyd (90-231) have all been held up as examples of college coaches failing to make it in the pros.

It’s not that I think Donovan is a shoe-in to succeed. He may indeed fall flat on his face within the first few seasons in Orlando. But look at the coaches named earlier. All four have again found success in the college game despite taking a few years to coach in the NBA. Pitino lead Louisville to the Final Four in 2005. Calipari guided Memphis to the Elite Eight in ’06. Kruger and Floyd both lead their teams (UNLV and USC, respectively) to the Sweet Sixteen this past March.

If Donovan is ever let go by the Orlando Magic, he’ll be comforted with two thoughts: There will always be a home in NCAA basketball for a two-time national championship coach…

…and he’ll have made $27.5 million dollars during his hiatus from college coaching.


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