VETTEL: All About Challenges

After watching his Orlando Magic press conference on Sun Sports it was clear why Billy Donovan is leaving the Florida Gators for the NBA. For Donovan it wasn't about the long discussed contract that never got finalized. It wasn't about the long trips on the recruiting trail. It wasn't about off the court basketball issues like academic concerns and NCAA compliance tests.

It was all about challenging himself personally and professionally.

Oh, those other items were all factors in Donovan's interest in going from the college game to the professional level. All college coaches tire of recruiting and the other non-coaching aspects of their jobs. All college coaches wish they didn't have the 20-hour rule, which limits the time they can work with their players on the court. All coaches tire of the strain that comes with trying to remember each aspect of the NCAA rule book and things along that line. But this was a decision that was about Donovan wanting a new challenge.

Rebuilding the Florida Basketball team after losing the top six players was certainly going to be a challenge. But it wasn't the kind of challenge that Donovan was hungry for. By staying in Gainesville his challenge would have been to repeat what he had just accomplished by building a national championship caliber basketball team. By going on to the next level, Donovan is taking on a far greater challenge.

NBA Tough on College Coaches

One of the greatest challenges of all for Donovan will be to succeed where so many have failed. His mentor, Rick Pitino had one great season with the new York Knicks, but struggled to a 102-and-146 record when he left Kentucky for the Boston Celtics. Lon Kruger went from Illinois to the Atlanta Hawks and went 69-and-122 in two-plus seasons. Tim Florida was a miserable 49-and-190 in Chicago and Leonard Hamilton crashed and burned in his one year in Washington, winning just 19 of 82 games. Jerry Tarkanian, John Calipari and Mike Montgomery are three others who found the pro game less than enjoyable.

One thing that helps Donovan's chances of having more success is the team he's going to. The Orlando Magic made the playoffs last year and has one of the young stars of the NBA in Dwight Howard. They have a young team that should improve and they have salary cap room with which to try and pursue free agents. Think of Orlando's roster if they could add Rashard Lewis. They'd be pretty darn good.

Grant Reference No Coincidence

When asked about the future at Florida, Donovan at first answered the way coaches do, waxing philosophical that it was Jeremy Foley's decisions and so on, but then his answer changed. Donovan spoke glowingly about his former assistant Anthony Grant and the role he played in the Gators' success over the past decade. That was not an accidental reference. Billy's friendship with Jeremy Foley would not allow him to put that out there without VERY good reason.

Foley and Grant will meet on Saturday to discuss the opening.

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