Now that Billy Donovan has officially left the Florida Gators for the Orlando Magic — and EDSBS has been quiet so far — we thought we'd ask the biggest Gators fan we knew, Dan Shanoff, to describe how he's feeling. Here are his words.
I cannot begrudge Billy Donovan for leaving Florida for the NBA. Not after he won back-to-back national titles. Simply put: He has earned the right to do whatever he wants, without anything from Gators fans except, "Thanks for the memories."
Still, the big question on Florida fans' minds: Why the hell would he leave behind what he has built?
For the money? How lame, particularly when you're talking about the difference between $4.X million and $5.X million. I hope that wasn't his motivation.
For the challenge? What, like joining the Rushmore of college coaches (Wooden, Knight, Smith, K) wasn't a tantalizing enough prospect? He'd rather figure out how to shake JJ Redick free for 10 3-point attempts a game?
For the location? I appreciate that coaching in Orlando lets him stay near his family, but what could be closer to his family than staying in Gainesville? In Gainesville, he is a god. In Orlando, he is out-ranked as a local attraction by Goofy.
And the final insult for any college fan, Florida or anywhere: What, exactly, is the lure of coaching in the NBA? On its face, it sounds like the shittiest job in sports.
Zero job security, with a "when" not "if" inevitability of a bad ending to nearly every coaching hire. (Welcome to Indiana, Jim O'Brien!) Star players who run the team. Financial realities that hamstring moves.
Roughest of all, the "Ring or Bust" mentality. Jerry Sloan is the ideal of NBA coaching longevity, yet he is best known for NOT winning a championship. And most of the coaches who have won a title recently (Jackson, Tomjanovich, Popovich) have enjoyed coaching the greatest players of their eras. Dwight Howard is the best post player in the East — not a bad foundation to build a contender — and they have double-digit cap millions to use (please God: NOT Vince Carter...hmm: Gerald Wallace?) But yeesh, those odds are still ugly.
Meanwhile, Billy D was on track to be one of the Top 5 most successful coaches in college hoops history. His style seemed MADE for college. (His weakness - Xs and Os - will be magnified in the NBA, while his strength - personality - will be mitigated.)
Gators fans have been through this before: When Steve Spurrier left for the NFL. Spurrier meekly (and inevitably) returned to college football — to some Florida wannabe. Gator fans, ultimately, were better off without him. But still: When the Ol' Ball Coach returns to Gainesville, the fans cheer him like he never left - for what he did while he was here.
We will feel the same way about Billy D. We don't have to agree with his decision today, but his legacy among fans is secure. Even after he realizes that coaching in the NBA sucks and he flees back to college hoops with another program. By then, Florida will be 100-plus wins into the Anthony Grant Era. Thanks to Billy.