Although Billy Donovan has signed a 1-year contract extension that theoretically will keep him at Florida until 2020 while raising his pay to more than $4 million a year, the NBA is going to be calling and very soon. Orlando and Minnesota have both told sources throughout the national media that Billy will be on their short lists. With LeBron James now calling the plays at Cleveland, you have to figure a coaching change is in order there, too, and the Cadavers did go after Billy last year. Oklahoma City wants to wrap up Kevin Durant for a lifetime. They might need a coach like Billy Donovan to do that.
So the Gators aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to retaining Billy, who has a meager $500,000 buyout on his contract. Figure he will listen and figure he will be offered substantially more than the $4 million he will make at Florida. Billy has always listened and with the exception of that lost weekend in 2007, he’s always said no.
Chances are he will say no this time, too, but that might only be a temporary fix. He’s got a strong roster to work with next season, one that should get the Gators back in the NCAA Tournament after a 1-year absence, and if he gets the ship righted to his satisfaction, the spring of 2016 is when Gator fans should really start to sweat.
With the announcement that Dorian Finney-Smith will return for his senior season at the University of Florida, it’s numbers crunch time for Donovan. As it stands now, Donovan has 14 scholarship players, which is one over the limit, and two non-scholarship players.
The numbers always have a way of working themselves out, so right now it shouldn’t be a big concern for Donovan that he’s one over. He’s got one player with academic issues (Brandone Francis, who redshirted this season) and a fifth-year senior who will graduate in Eli Carter, who could choose to return closer to his New Jersey home to play out his final year of eligibility. And, there is Chris Walker, who was thought to be a one-and-done when he signed. It’s whispered that Walker doesn’t like being in school, so it’s entirely possible he could opt for the NBA Developmental League and get paid to play next season. He certainly won’t get drafted even with that enormous athletic ability and sky’s the limit potential.
Here is how the roster breaks down as of April 3:
Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, JR): If he can cut down the turnovers and become a threat to hit an occasional jump shot, he could thrive with this roster.
Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160, SO): If he can play with a bit more control, he could take over as the starting point guard.
Eli Carter (6-2, 200, RSR): He’s a wild card. He could come back for his senior season or he can graduate and transfer out. If he can continue to strengthen his leg and regain the hops he had before he broke it back in 2013, he could be a legitimate scorer again.
DeVon Walker (6-6, 203, RJR): He was expected to be a major contributor last season, but missed the whole year with an ACL tear. If he’s back and healthy, he is a good 3-point shooter and one of the best press defenders Donovan has.
Devin Robinson (6-8, 180, SO): Expect a breakout season from Robinson next year. He showed flashes of his ability in the final 10-12 games of the season. He should double his scoring average next year.
Brandone Francis (6-5, 210, RFR): He is an X-factor because he had to sit the entire season while working on his academics. If he has his academics in order, then Donovan has a big, strong slasher off the wing who is capable of defending all three perimeter positions.
Kevaughn Allen (6-3, 175, FR): Imagine Anthony Roberson with a 44-inch vertical. You have to figure that he’ll start getting some work at the point as a freshman and will eventually slide over there permanently.
Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 218, RSR): He’s Florida’s most versatile player and with the added size to the roster, Donovan is going to be able to use him to create nightmare matchups. He’ll get a chance to play on the wing, the high post and run the baseline.
Alex Murphy (6-8, 225, RSR): He showed the rust from two years of inactivity once he became eligible, but he’s got a good offensive skill set and plays very good defense. He should be a factor off the bench next year.
* Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250, RJR): The Gators recruited him out of high school before he went to Stanford. He’s on a full academic so he won’t count against the scholarship limit. He’s a big body who can bang when he becomes eligible in December.
Chris Walker (6-10, 220, JR): Nobody needs a junior year in college more than Chris Walker, whose first two seasons have been enormously disappointing. He’s got all the athletic ability in the world, but is he disciplined enough to harness it? Nobody should be surprised if he elects to go play in the D-League.
John Egbunu (6-11, 266, RSO): He showed tremendous upside as a freshman at USF. There were whispers that he dominated practices while sitting out last season.
Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 210, FR): He can rebound and block shots. Anything the Gators get out of him offensively the first couple of years will be a bonus. He has tremendous upside.
Noah Dickerson (6-8, 240, FR): He is a wide body who plays below the rim but because he carves out so much space, he is a very effective scorer and rebounder in the low blocks.
Keith Stone (6-7, 230, FR): He can play the power game and has 3-point range. It could be interesting to see what happens when Stone, Finney-Smith and Robinson are on the floor at the same time.
* Non-Scholarship transfer from Stanford; eligible in December
Wisconsin over Kentucky: Kentucky is two wins away from an historic 40-0 run to the national championship, but could the Wildcats meet their match in the semifinals against a Wisconsin team that was a buzzer-beater shot away from knocking off UK in last year’s semifinal. It can be argued that Kentucky is a better team that the one that beat the Badgers last year, but Wisconsin has also improved. If Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker stay out of foul trouble, I think the Badgers win it this year.
Duke over Michigan State: I love the way Michigan State plays defense and I love the way Tom Izzo develops players over four years. There is so much to like about Michigan State, but the Spartans don’t have Jahlil Okafor and they don’t have Justise Winslow. I think Duke wins, but it’s going to be close.
1. Herschel Walker, Georgia: Realistically speaking, Herschel could have been the first and only 3-time winner of the Heisman Trophy. He should have won it as a freshman when he led Georgia to the 1980 national championship and should have won it in 1981-82 when he was simply the best football player in the country. Everybody knew Herschel was going to get the football. There was no mystery to the Georgia offense. Yet, nobody stopped him. Had he stayed for his senior season he would have put up numbers no one in the SEC could ever come close to. In three years, Herschel had 5,259 rushing yards for 49 touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 243 yards and 3 more. Georgia won the SEC three straight years and was 33-3 when Herschel was carrying the football. He is a member of the college football hall of fame.
2. Bo Jackson, Auburn: Bo won the 1985 Heisman when he ran for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.7 per carry when he gained 1,213 yards. He battled through injuries as a junior in 1984 when he only carried 87 times for 475 yards. For pure excitement, there has never been a more electrifying running back in the SEC. He was a 3-time first team All-SEC and consensus All-American in 1989. He is a member of both the college football hall of fame.
3. Emmitt Smith, Florida: Emmitt Smith gained 3,928 yards in three years at Florida which is remarkable considering his offensive coordinators included Lynn Amedee (the Amedeeville Horror) and Whitey Jordan. Amedee thought Emmitt needed to be a decoy and told Jack Hairston and other writers that Willie McClendon was a better back. That was 1988, the year Emmitt didn’t get to the 1,000-yard mark. In 1989, Whitey Jordan’s imaginative offense was Emmitt left, Emmitt right and Emmitt up the middle. It was eight in the box the whole season but he gained 1,599 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. He is a member of the college and pro football halls of fame.
4. Darren McFadden, Arkansas: In 2006-07, McFadden was twice the Heisman runner-up, consensus All-America both years and won the Doak Walker Award twice. He gained more than 1,000 yards in all three of his collegiate seasons, gaining 1,830 in 2007 when he scored 16 rushing touchdowns. For his career he ran for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns, caught 46 passes for 365 yards and 2 touchdowns and averaged 24.4 yards per kickoff return with one more touchdown.
5. Kevin Faulk, LSU: He finished his collegiate career with 6,883 all-purpose yards including three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 1996-98. Faulk ran for 4,557 yards and 46 touchdowns, caught 53 passes for 600 yards and 4 TDs, and had 1,676 punt and kickoff return yards for another three touchdowns. He was a first team All-America in 1996, third team in 1997-98 and made All-SEC three straight years (1996-98).
6. Carnell Williams, Auburn: When healthy, there wasn’t a running back in the SEC in the same league with “Cadillac.” After injury-filled freshman and sophomore seasons, Cadillac was All-SEC and All-America in 2003-04 when he combined for 2,472 yards and 29 touchdowns. For his career he had 3,831 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns, 45 catches for 342 yards and one more touchdown and 911 kick/punt return yards.
7. Bobby Humphrey, Alabama: He might have won the Heisman in 1988 if he hadn’t been injured and limited to two games. In 1986-87 he was All-America and All-SEC, combining for 2,726 yards and 26 touchdowns in those two seasons. For his career he gained 3,420 yards for 33 touchdowns, caught 60 passes for 523 yards and 7 touchdowns and ran back kickoffs for an additional 1,015 yards.
8. Mark Ingram, Alabama: For all practical purposes, Ingram really had only one great year but it was good enough to get him the 2009 Heisman when he gained 1,658 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. For his 3-year career, Ingram had 3,261 yards and 42 touchdowns, plus caught 60 passes for 670 yards and 4 more touchdowns.
9. Errict Rhett, Florida: Rhett cried when FSU didn’t offer him a scholarship, but he got over it in a big way at Florida. A first team All-America in 1993 and a 2-time first team All-SEC selection, Rhett is the leading rusher in Florida history with 4,163 yards and 34 touchdowns to go with 153 receptions for 1,230 yards and 2 more touchdowns. In his All-America season, Rhett gained 1,289 rushing yards for 11 touchdowns and caught 36 passes for 271 more.
10. Charles Alexander, LSU: Alexander the Great was first team All-America and first team All-SEC in 1977-78. He ran for 1,686 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior in 1977 and followed that up in 1978 by running for 1,172 and 14 touchdowns while catching 28 passes for 263 yards and 2 more. His career numbers at LSU are 4,035 yards and 40 touchdowns rushing, 49 catches for 431 yards and 2 touchdowns receiving. He is a member of the college football hall of fame.
Special mention: The stats for the 1940s aren’t the greatest, but Bear Bryant, Frank Broyles and Bobby Dodd all agreed on one thing – Charlie Trippi of Georgia was the greatest college football player they ever saw. He is a member of both the college and pro football halls of fame. Also, special mention goes to “Flatfoot” Frankie Sinkwich of Georgia, who won the 1942 Heisman. He operated out of the single wing and threw as much as he passed so it’s hard to pinpoint a single position for him. Another special mention goes to Johnny Majors of Tennessee, another single wing tailback who finished second in the 1957 Heisman voting.
Honorable mention: Johnny Musso, Alabama; Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina; Billy Cannon, LSU; Joe Cribbs, Auburn; James Brooks, Auburn; Trent Richardson, Alabama; Garrison Hearst, Georgia; Dalton Hilliard, LSU; Fred Taylor, Florida; Ronnie Brown, Auburn; Shaun Alexander, Alabama; James Stewart, Tennessee; Sonny Collins, Kentucky; Felix Jones, Arkansas; Knowshon Moreno, Georgia; Jamal Lewis, Tennessee; Travis Henry, Tennessee; Tucker Fredrickson, Auburn; Rick Casares, Florida; Neal Anderson, Florida; John L. Williams, Florida.
When Mississippi State and Tennessee jettisoned their basketball coaches, they wasted no time going after and landing big names to take over. Ben Howland (Mississippi State) and Rick Barnes (Tennessee) give those two programs an instant shot of credibility.
Alabama, meanwhile, has been jilted by Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, who will remain the big fish in the little pond with a contract that will pay him $3.3 million a year for the next seven years. Bama started the bidding at $4.2 million and went all the way up to $4.9 million and Marshall still said no, which leaves athletic director Bill Battle scrambling. He desperately needs a big name and with Marshall off the board and Shaka Smart taking the big bucks at Texas there are very few coaches available whose name could turn heads instantly.
Archie Miller (Dayton) and Bobby Hurley (Buffalo) have just signed contract extensions and are unlikely to budge. Steve Prohm (Murray State) wants the job but he won’t thrill the masses and he certainly isn’t going to make 5-star recruits think crimson. Richard Pitino (Minnesota) is only 32, has the pedigree but has only been a head coach three years.
Maybe the only two coaches that will listen and could be swayed are Tom Crean (Indiana) and Chris Mack (Xavier). Both might have been moved to take the job if it had been offered a week ago. Now? Not so likely.
By not moving quickly, Battle has painted Alabama into a corner. He needs to hit it out of the park in the worst way but might have problems legging one out to first base the way things are going.
Do you think Wisconsin has a chance to halt Kentucky’s march to a perfect season? And who do you think wins between Michigan State and Duke?
One of my favorite Pat Metheny albums is “We Live Here,” which he released in 1995. I have all his albums but this one is a particular favorite because of the contributions of the late Mark Ledford, who it was rumored played 15 different instruments. His contributions on this album were guitar, horns and vocals. You will hear his vocal contributions on today’s song, “And Then I Knew” which also has some very cool piano by Lyle Mays and Metheny’s usual guitar excellence.