Donovan to Stay; O-Fours to Head to NBA

I'm a little late to the party.

Billy Donovan is staying at Florida, leaving Kentucky to search out other options they may have.

"It came down to one thing -- I'm happy," Donovan told ESPN.com. "My family is happy. The job was never offered to me. I did talk to Mitch. I appreciate him never calling me during the NCAA tournament. He handled it first class.

"I never wanted this to be a bidding war with Kentucky and Florida, Donovan said. "You can't buy happiness and the school [Florida] has always taken care of me."


"I told Jeremy [Foley, Florida's athletic director] that we're back to starting over," Donovan said. "We'll have a total new team, and for the staff we're excited about the challenge. We'll have a great opportunity. But there will be a real, real major drop-off."

Big, BIG news and definitely a sigh of relief for myself and the rest of the Gator fanbase, I'm sure.  Coach Donovan will continue his legacy in Gainesville as the greatest coach ever to lead the Gators, and we could be seeing more and more success in the coming years.

When Coach Donovan said he was only focusing on the tournament, I believed him.  When he said that he hadn't discussed the position with Kentucky, I believed him.  I'm not sure why this became such a huge story with the media and with the Kentucky fans.  Why must we be so obsessed with "reading between the lines" in these situations?

Anyways, great news for the University of Florida.  I couldn't be happier with Coach Donovan's decision and with what the future holds in Gainesville.

The other big news of the day came as the big four -- Big Al, Jo, Taurean and Brewer -- will all be leaving and testing the NBA waters.

Donovan said he returned to the team hotel in the early hours Tuesday after the Gators won their second straight national championship, met with his four heralded juniors and was pretty direct.

"What do you guys think about doing it three times?" he asked.

"All of their shoulders slumped down," Donovan said. "They said, 'We're exhausted.'"


So we're at the end of an era in Gainesville, and I have no qualms with any of their decisions to go to the NBA.  The four were like a family, and it's been said several times that they were dedicated to each other enough where if one left, they all would.

It's been a fun ride with this group of guys.  No Gator fan will ever forget their contributions to the basketball program and the back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.

But let's not think this is the end of a successful era by any means.  Coach Donovan is going to re-tool, with not only current young men, but with incoming recruits that could make an impact in a very short time as well.

The Gators will return key reserve guard Walter Hodge, a rising junior point, as well as freshmen Marreese Speights, Dan Werner, Brandon Powell and Joanthan Mitchell. Speights played key minutes against Ohio State's Greg Oden in the national title game Monday in Atlanta. Werner had earned quality time at various points this season.

The Gators signed four players early, including stud shooting guard Nick Calathes out of Winter Park, Fla. The other three -- small forward Chandler Parsons (same school as Calathes), power forward Alex Tyus (Cincinnati) and shooting guard Adam Allen (Milton, Fla.) will also get a long look and likely will have to play, according to Donovan.

The Gators are also in the mix for two of the top unsigned players in the class of 2007 in forward Patrick Patterson of Huntington, W.Va., and point guard Jai Lucas of Houston, the son of former NBA coach John Lucas.


Ok.  Now I can't wait for next season.  It's going to be a fun ride.

IT'S GREAT TO BE A FLORIDA GATOR!

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