Donovan With No Regrets Turning Down Orlando

When the Gators take the floor at the Amway Center in Orlando Wednesday night, head coach Billy Donovan will be on the sidelines that could have been his permanent home. After becoming the head coach of the Orlando Magic in June 2007, he changed his mind days later and decided to return to Florida. Wednesday night, he will be on the sideline of the Magic's new $380 million arena.

The question of "what if?" has crossed his mind, but not only in reference to his decision not to leave Florida.

"Anytime you have decisions, I think back about that and my life," Billy Donovan said. "I think back about what if I didn't come here and stayed at Marshall? I think I could be in Orlando, and I could be wondering what if I stayed back at Florida after winning two national championships? I think anytime you go through life, you'd look at different places you could've been or would've been."

That doesn't mean there aren't things he would change about how the decision was handled. As he has said multiple times, Donovan credited the Orlando Magic organization for handling the situation with class. The Florida head coach just wished he had spent longer considering his options.

"I think the one thing is the speed and pace of which you had to make decisions," Donovan said. "I should've taken more time. As I've said many times before, I felt really bad about the way the whole thing happened. I've got a lot of strong feelings towards Florida. (Magic head coach) Stan (Van Gundy) has done a great job and worked out well for them. I'm very happy here. In the end, it's worked out best for everybody."

After returning to Florida, Donovan signed a contract extension that would keep him from taking a job in the NBA for five seasons. Those five years end after next season, meaning Donovan could take an NBA job in 2012.

Asked if that was still something he was interested in, Donovan would only reiterate how much he loves being the head coach at Florida.

"I think one of the hardest parts in coaching is sometimes you don't know where you're going to be or what's going to happen," Donovan said. "I'm happy where I am. If I was fortunate to stay another 15 years, I'd be happy with that. When a coach comes out and says, "I'm never leaving," and then they leave, (people say), "Liar!" Then "well I'm not sure, I want to keep my options open," (people say), "he's not committed there!" All I can say is I'm happy here with the people I work with. I'm excited."

IMPORTANCE OF REST: Heading into the Florida State game, the Gators had four days without a game. The rest was needed after playing four games in the previous eight days.

The schedule didn't only consist of good teams, but it gave Florida little time to prepare. There have been multiple points this season where the Gators had only one day of practice to prepare for an opponent. Preparation was the focus of each day on the practice court, which hurt the development of the team.

"The balance of preparation, team scouting and player development, there were some things missing there," Donovan said. "I thought we had three really good days of practice leading up to the Florida State game."

COACHES DON'T GET A PASS: While fans and media members are calling for firings from the Florida football staff, Donovan is familiar with the heat on a program shortly after experiencing success. After winning back-to-back national championships, his Florida teams missed the tournament two straight seasons.

The way he sees it, it's the nature of the college game. Donovan pointed to programs like North Carolina and UCLA who have struggled recently, despite having multiple McDonald's All-Americans.

"I think we're in a society that's like a microwave," Donovan said. "Everyone wants instant, fast results. I don't think anything worth building or lasting is built like that. Whether you talk about IBM or some blue chip stock company, no one ever stays on the top forever. There are peaks and valleys in our own personal lives. Everything doesn't go well all the time. The days of John Wooden winning ten straight national championships are over."

There is a reality that Donovan says every coach has to accept. Every team can't win a championship every year, no matter how bad they want it. The perspective from a head coach comes down to pushing each player to improve every day.

"I was 41-years-old and had a chance to be a part of two national championships," Donovan said. "Dean Smith was at North Carolina for 30+ years and won two. Does that mean the other years he coached were terrible? From a coaching perspective, there's a lot more reward when you see guys grow and get better."

The football program has had no trouble recruiting in recent seasons, but even that doesn't define success. Donovan found the most success with the 2004 class, where he brought in Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. It was not a highly regarded recruiting, but the four players changed the national perception of Florida basketball.

"The expectations of recruiting classes, that doesn't mean anything," Donovan said. "Noah, Horford and Brewer were the most undervalued recruiting class I'd brought in here, and clearly, no one did as much as they did since I've been here other than maybe Mike Miller and Udonis (Haslem) who came up a game short."
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