A new era in Orlando begins tonight as Billy Donovan leads the new look Magic against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Magic are part of a resurgence in the Eastern Conference as they are led by Dwight Howard and free agent signing Rashard Lewis. The additions of Gators Chris Richard and Taurean Green give Donovan some familiar faces. The first year head coach says he is eager to start the challenge of the NBA season...
That's what could have happened, but Billy came back to Gainesville for a different challenge; maintaining the winning tradition he established at UF. Preseason practice has already been a struggle for Donovan as he has back trouble and the team is not yet to the standards of the program. With so many new faces, Thursday night's game will be a glorified try-out with numerous lineup combos and strategies.
Keeping Billy means that a known quantity is still there and that insures interest and national attention. With that comes the need to stay relevant. It wasn't a surprise when Florida was left out of the top-25, so the expectations are not high. But, they still need to win.
Part of Florida's strategy is not just to compete for championships, but it is also to be nationally relevant. We may measure success against Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida State. But the athletic department looks at us in relation to Ohio State, Texas, and Michigan.
With all that in mind, it is impossible to accurately judge what Billy means to the Gators. By staying in Gainesville, he has a chance to make Gator Basketball a national name. Two titles will help get to that level, but sustained excellence is what is necessary. And that is a much bigger challenge then getting the Magic to the playoffs.