Like it or not, we have to live with the fact that Billy Donovan is going to be on the short list of just about every NBA team when there is an opening so no one should be shocked that the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers have had conversations with him about their vacant coaching jobs. When asked about the NBA Thursday, Donovan confirmed that he's had discussions but added, "I fully plan on being back [at Florida] next season."
Donovan wouldn't go into detail about the conversations – "After the Orlando situation, that's all I'm saying," he said Thursday – but who can blame him? He took a lot of grief about what went down in 2007 when he accepted the Magic job only to back out of the contract and return to Florida a couple of days later. That was not only a difficult time for Donovan but also for his family and he's not about to put them through that again. If he ever leaves Florida for the NBA again there will be no turning back. For now, at least, it's highly unlikely he will coach anywhere except the University of Florida.
Because he's been so successful not just in winning basketball games at an incredible rate at a deep south football school – something which no one could have anticipated or predicted when he was hired back in 1995 – and because his former players who have made it successfully in the NBA continue to rave about the influence he had and continues to have on them, Billy Donovan is always going to be one of the first inquiries whenever there is a vacancy in the league. It's the same thing that Mike Kryzyzewski has gone through for the past 25 years and while Coach K has never actually accepted an NBA job only to back out of the commitment, he has never completely closed the door to the possibility. If the NBA calls, he listens. He hasn't gone anywhere but he listens.
And that's what Donovan does, too. They call. He listens. And for now, at least, he stays.
There are some who speculate that when Jeremy Foley leaves Florida, perhaps to become the commissioner of one of the five power conferences – Mike Slive isn't getting any younger – that Donovan will use that as his opportunity to give the NBA a try. Foley is the only boss he's ever had and Billy might figure that he's a little late in life to be breaking in a new one at the collegiate level. But that is pure speculation, both that Foley will leave anytime soon or that Billy will bolt to the pros.
What intrigues Billy is that in the NBA it's all basketball all the time. In the NBA he wouldn't have to spend what seems half his life watching kids as young as 14 play AAU basketball nor would he have to deal with kids who simply don't want to go to class or a host of other problems. In the NBA he's dealing with adults who are out on their own and getting paid well for playing a game.
I think that is the very reason that Billy will continue to listen but stay at Florida. In the NBA he will be dealing with adults, many of whom make more money than he does and who don't mind pouting if they think their coach is hindering their ability to sign a multi-year, bazillion dollar contract. In the NBA he will have far less opportunity for him to impact someone's life. As I have gotten to know him over the years, I know that is important to him and I think that it will continue to be important. He has a good system going at Florida and he keeps churning out kids who are not only ready to play professional basketball somewhere in the world, but ready to face life with a set of values and a level of maturity.
Certainly, all that could change and he could decide he's done all that he can at Florida, but for now and for what I believe to be the foreseeable future, I think Billy Donovan will be a Gator. I think he will listen courteously whenever the NBA calls, but elect to stay where he can have the most impact on the lives of young men.
John Sciarra (UCLA quarterback, 1972-75) will be part of the 2014 class for the College Football Hall of Fame. He was a decent career but hardly what you would call spectacular. In his lone All-America season (1975) he ran for 787 yards and 14 touchdowns, while throwing for 1,313 and eight touchdowns to go with 14 interceptions for a UCLA team that went 9-2-1 and beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. I saw John Sciarra play more than once and I can't say that I was overly impressed.
I also saw Wes Sandy Chandler play many, many times and this isn't the Gator in me talking but pure fact – he was almost always the best player on the field and rarely let a game go by that he didn't do something spectacular. Playing for a Florida team that ran the wishbone, he caught 93 passes for 1,994 yards and 22 touchdowns in the three years (1975-77) that he was a starter. In the wishbone, he was Florida's only wide receiver and everybody in the ball yard knew that if the Gators were going to throw the ball, he was going to be the target. Yet, no one could stop him. As a senior, he did everything – caught passes, ran from the tailback position and returned both punts and kickoffs. He made first team All-America in both 1976 and 1977 and was a first team Academic All-American in 1977.
So somebody explain to me how John Sciarra got in the College Football Hall of Fame this year and Wes Chandler was overlooked? This is just wrong. Of course, this is the same College Football Hall of Fame that waited all these years to elect Derrick Thomas of Alabama, who won the Butkus Award and set the NCAA record for single season sacks (27) in 1989.
1. Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss: A first team All-American last season, Prewitt led the SEC with six interceptions and finished with 71 tackles.
2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: As a true freshman made first team All-SEC and third team All-America when he had 38 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass breakups.
3. Ramik Wilson, LB, Georgia: Led the SEC in tackles last year with 133 and that included 11 behind the line of scrimmage, four sacks and seven quarterback hurries. All-SEC first team last year.
4. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee: He's a senior who has consecutive seasons with more than 100 tackles and has 324 for his Tennessee career. First team All-SEC last year.
5. A'Shawn Robinson, NT: Alabama: He wasn't even a starter but outperformed the starters last season when he had 38 tackles including eight for loss and 5.5 sacks as a freshman.
6. Landon Collins, S, Alabama: As a sophomore last year, Collins had an impressive 70 tackles last year to go with two interceptions.
7. Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida: Even though he was Florida's only pass rush threat and faced constant double and triple teams, Fowler still wound up with 50 tackles including 10.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, seven hurries and three forced fumbles.
8. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia: Floyd is the best pure pass rusher in the SEC which he proved last season when he had 55 tackles including 9.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hurries.
9. Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State: As a freshman, he had 32 tackles including seven for loss and three sacks, plus 10 quarterback hurries.
10. Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas: Flowers finished with 44 tackles and five sacks last season while forcing three fumbles.
Sports Illustrated just posted its list of the 35 most disliked people in sports and to no one's surprise, Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling took over the number one position from A-Rod. If you're an SEC football fan, then you're not the least bit surprised that former Tennessee coach and current Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is #8, a full 14 spots ahead of his boss, Nick Saban. A few other notables: Richie Incognito (former Dolphins lineman) #4, Julie Hermann (Rutgers AD) #6, Richard Sherman (Seahawks corner) #7, Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins owner) #9, Mark Emmert (NCAA president) #12; Roger Goodell (NFL commissioner #14, Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys owner) #15, Tiger Woods #16, John Calipari (Kentucky basketball coach) #17, Ray Lewis (former All-Pro linebacker) #20, Marshall Henderson (former Ole Miss shooting guard) #21 and Bill Belichick (New England Patriots coach) #26.
Is there one sports figure – coach or player, amateur or pro – that you absolutely despise?
The first time I saw the band Hot Tuna live it was to open for Jefferson Airplane somewhere around 1970. Marty Balin, who later joined the Airplane after the name was changed to Jefferson Starship, was the singer in those days. They started out as an opening act band but developed into a crowd favorite that could headline its own concerts. Hot Tuna was a band you really had to see live or at least listen to their live albums. They were good in the studio but outstanding live. My favorite album was "First Pull Up, Then Pull Down," a live compilation of songs which featured some rather incredible electric violin by Papa John Creach. This is "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" from that album.