No, I didn't expect Donovan and Foley to announce a change of heart, but Billy seemed different. I discounted my suspicion when he made the comment, "I'm not enjoying this as much as I should". That comment explained the pained, exhausted look on his face and I figured that was that.
Apparently there was much more to it than that. All indications are that Donovan began having "buyer's remorse" almost immediately upon his return to Gainesville. Painful conversations with current players and signees drove home the point that he may have made a huge mistake. All those feelings re-affirmed the point I had made when this thing started picking up steam. This was not the right time for Billy Donovan to take his shot at the next level.
Publicity Forces Rushed Decisions
One of the biggest reasons for change of heart type decisions is that the publicity and pressure that follows these things creates an artificial rush to finalize deals. Donovan should have taken a week or more to consider whether he was really ready for the NBA lifestyle and the time away from home that goes with it. Instead he had a serious conversation with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday and they wanted a decision in less than a day.
The Gator coach is not blameless in this. He has put the Magic, the Gators and the VCU Rams through hell while this has dragged on. His quick decision and almost as quick change of direction shows a lack of maturity for a man who has been all basketball all the time for his entire adult life. He has some serious fence mending to do in Gator Nation, but that won't be hard to get done.
Big Plus in Long Run
Once all the dust settles and Donovan begins working towards the 2007-08 season, the aftermath of this situation will begin to take shape. Count me as one guy who believes this will actually be GREAT for the Gator Basketball program in the long run. Think about it. Donovan is off the board as an NBA coaching candidate for at least three-to-five years. There will be no conversations with any other teams, no rumors about him doing anything like this anytime soon.
Additionally, Donovan has eliminated the possibility of any other college job opening posing interest. His decision to reject overtures from the Kentucky Wildcats took the other potential threat to the Donovan/UF marriage off the board as well. Now Gator fans can relax knowing their coach is settled in, has rejected the two biggest threats to his tenure in Gainesville and will be around for several years to pursue more wins and more championships.
One more thing, Billy Donovan can look a prospect in the eye and say, "I turned down more than $5 million a year to stay in Gainesville. You think it might be a special place"?
Billy Donovan has been a great part of Gator Nation for more than a decade, and brought Florida Basketball to a place few dared to even dream about. While the Orlando Magic has a right to be angry with him for his decision to walk away from his agreement with them, Gator fans should give him a mulligan on this one.