To Create a Legacy or to Follow One

UK Baseball head man John Cohen will see a significant amount of action come his way in regards to the interview process from other schools this summer and fall. What will eventually keep the third-year coach in Lexington is unknown, but there are plenty of reasons to stay and one model to go by is currently windexing his national championship trophy in South Florida.

When Billy Donovan was first hired by current Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley from Marshall University, the anticipation was that the former Providence guard would last only so long in Gainesville before he landed on his feet and into the big-time at a so called, 'bigger program.'

Donovan had the pedigree, having played and coached under former University of Kentucky head coach Rick Pitino; he had the charisma, taking page-after-page from his former coach in everything from fashion to attitude; and lastly, he had the passion for basketball and uncanny ability to recruit across the globe.

Coaching wise, he was only suspect because of his lack of experience.

10 years have since past since Foley's announcement of Donovan's hiring and despite the obvious hurdles that associate with keeping a high profile basketball coach at a proclaimed "football school," together they have transcended everyone's expectations and put Florida basketball on an even keel among the nation's elite.

Two Final Four appearences, Two national championship appearences, Two Southeastern conference titles, Two SEC tournament titles and a national championship will do that.

Which brings us to John Cohen, a scenario that looks scarily similar to Donovan's at Florida.

Like Donovan, the University of Kentucky baseball program has seen patches of success through its time, and while it has never been on the same level as LSU or Mississippi State in its baseball program, it has had moments of success under coach Keith Madison.

While this season is an obvious reason to celebrate for fans of the Big Blue as they watch a program left for dead arrive to national prominance, it is no reason to bolt if you are Cohen for perceived 'greener pastures,' elsewhere.

Plain and simple, there is business to be finished in Lexington, much like there was business to be finished in Gainesville after Donovan led the Gators to only their second SEC Title in 77 years in 2000.

While Kentucky certainly isn't the meca of college baseball, it has arrived on the map thanks to Coach Cohen and the opportunity to continue to build upon his own legacy, in an athletic program that hasn't experienced much success in baseball, is there.

Would Billy Donovan be such a cult-figure in a place like Durham, had he followed Coach K instead of Lon Kruger?

Ask Smoke Laval.

The former Louisiana State assistant to legendary baseball headman Skip Bertman, who led LSU to five national championships as head coach, recently submitted his resignation after failing to lead the Tigers into the post-season.

Laval coached five seasons at LSU, winning one SEC title and appearing in two College World Series but never winning a CWS game. The Tigers failed in 2005 to win a regional for the first time in 11 seasons, and this season they failed to receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 seasons.

During his five seasons as head coach, though, Laval won more regular season SEC games than any other coach.

One year he doesn't make the NCAA's and now he's homeless.

Sound like fun, John?

That window of unrealistic expectations doesn't exist at Kentucky, where UK fans save the pressure of mountain expectations each year for Tubby Smith and the men's basketball team.

Donovan saw this equation at Florida, where a bad season would merely cause a rumble among his greatest supporters of the program, not the entire school. Pressure came only when it was placed upon himself. In time, he'd get his chance at a title and the fans would patiently wait in appreciation.

His time came this year, as the Florida Gators won the 2006 National Championship.

Donovan, in return for his willingness to write his own script at Florida, has now placed his basketball program among the nation's elite and has made Florida basketball, his program. To the man that follows Donovan, will live in his shadow.

It's called a legacy.

Some people take it, some people follow it. Money isn't a problem for Mitch Barnhart and the athletic program, as they will match any offer that comes Cohen's way, but in the end it will be Cohen's decision.

There's something great here for someone in Lexington. Staying here, will allow Cohen to reap the benefits of that.

It's called a legacy. You can create your own, or follow it.


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