Donovan, who coached the Thundering Herd for two seasons (1994-95, 1995-96), directed the Florida Gators to the NCAA National Championship last March and compiled a 33-6 record along the way, then won 35 and lost only four this season in winning a second-consecutive title, the first since Duke 15 years ago. Donovan set the tone early in the press conference that here was here to talk about Marshall, not the speculation that he is up for the open Kentucky job. "I'm here tonight to talk about Marshall University. This is not the time or place to discuss other issues." Donovan was also not shy about promoting Donnie Jones, his current associate head coach, as the new coach for the Marshall program. "A guy I feel serious about is my guy Donnie Jones. This program a lot different than when I was here, with two jumps from Southern Conference through the Mid-American to Conference USA. I hope Marshall and Donnie get a chance to sit down and discuss a marriage."
Donovan also said he talked with Marshall Director of Athletics Bob Marcum about Jones, but said Marcum did not want to interfere with Florida's run in the tournament. "I did talk to Bob about Donnie, but Bob said, 'Billy, I don't want to get involved with being a distraction for your progam' in reference to post-season, and I appreciated that. This is a great basketball town. It comes down to Bob, the President, the administration (at Marshall) to do what's best but I hope Donnie and Marshall will talk."
Donovan has been going at a rapid pace since heading to the Final Four last week. "It's been a little bit of a whirlwind. I'll go back, do some thinking on my own about my situation. I'll meet with Jeremy Foley on Thursday (the UF Athletic Director), I haven't even spoke to him since Monday. I didn't leave the arena until 2 a.m. Monday after the win, then got no sleep celebrating with friends and family. We got back and had hundreds of fans waiting Tuesday, then I went with my family to the beach and then came here tonight. It should be fun Friday (at the Florida championship celebration). It's not even been 48 hours since we won, so it has become a bit of a whirlwind. I haven't done a lot of thinking. I haven't had a lot of time to think about myself. Tonight is not the time or place, this night is about Marshall."
Busy has been an understatement for the national championship coach. "I think there is some of that," when Donovan was asked if he needed time to decompress. "I understand people want a decision…maybe a month or two…not really," said Donovan, laughing, "but at least in next two weeks. I will take some time to think, along with my wife, but I don't have a time table. Decompress is a good word. Kentucky has to do what's best for them, also. I love Florida, I love what we have done there." When told that Kentucky wants him for the job, Donovan was stoic. "I don't know that, I haven't talked to anyone there."
He also talked about sitting down the next couple of days with his players, before he leaves on a two-week vacation in the Dominican Republic. "In fairness to players, they need to decompress also. I will have some time to sit down Thursday and Friday. I told them to take some time, talk to their families. They had a decision to make last year and they have a decision to make this year. They have done a lot for the University of Florida. It's not are they ready (for the NBA), but are they ready to take you where you want to be. (Joakim) Noah is a sure first-round pick, some players are being talked of highly. Maybe some of scouts have said that, but we want to make sure that's true for their sake."
Donovan will not rush into a decision on his future. "If I'm uncertain of something, I'll take my time. I have a great relationship with the University of Florida, with Jeremy Foley and with the President. They have to do what's best for Florida too. I haven't talked to anybody. I don't feel any pressure to do anything. I will sit down and talk with Jeremy tomorrow. There's just been a lot going on."
In pushing for Jones to get the Marshall job, Donovan remembered the opportunity he got back in 1994 at Marshall. "I was 28 years old when this school hired me. That's unheard of these days. (Former MU AD) Lee Moon and (former MU President) Dr. Gilley provided me with this opportunity which led me to Florida. I am very appreciative of the opportunity they gave me. Coach Pitino did such a good job with all of us preparing us as assistants. He prepared us as good as you could to be head coaches. Everyone asks, "Are you ready?," as an assistant to be a head coach. You don't know, but I think Coach Pitino prepared us." Donovan worked for Coach Rick Pitino at Kentucky for four years before taking the Marshall job. "I think Donnie is prepared. He's been in a number of programs, Marshall, Florida, playing (and coaching) at Pineville. The fans here have a great love for Marshall, Huntington is a great basketball town. Look at the Coach Henderson years, the Huckabay years, when Coach Altman was here. I not here to put any pressure on anyone, but I think I have to put his name out there. I see the potential of the fans getting behind this program."
"We really appreciate Billy coming back to help us raise funds for our student-athletes," said Marcum, who verified that interviews for the Marshall job will officially begin on Thursday in Huntington. "For all he has achieved at Florida, it's a tribute to the Thundering Herd and all our fans that he will be the featured speaker for the Big Green."
In two seasons at Marshall, Donovan coached the Herd to 18-9 and 17-11 records. His 1994-95 squad won the Southern Conference Northern Division. Donovan was also named Southern Conference and West Virginia College Coach of the Year in 1994. His staff of Donnie Jones (a holdover from Altman and Freeman), now his Associate Head Coach at Florida, John Pelphrey (now head coach of South Alabama) and Anthony Grant (first-year head coach at VCU) all went with Donovan to Florida in 1996.
Jones is now rumored to be the leading candidate for the vacant Marshall job, since the firing of fourth-year head coach Ron Jirsa last month. Jones will reportedly meet with the Marshall screening committee on Thursday. Also in the Marshall job mix are Pete Gillen, former head coach at Virginia; Mike Jarvis, former head at St. John's; Mark Cline, assistant coach at Oklahoma; and, recently added to the mix, Tony Jones, an assistant to Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. No timetable for hiring a new coach has been set. Donovan is being pursued by the University of Kentucky for its vacant head coaching position, along with Rick Barnes of Texas, and the Bluegrass media was in full force today at Marshall, although they came away basically empty-handed except for Donovan promising to think about his future at Florida or Kentucky. Lexington and Louisville print and television media were nearly two-thirds of the media in attendance in addition to the normal Charleston-Huntington reporters.
The Big Green dinner Donovan was in town to speak at, the 29th annual, sold out all 400 tickets in record time for his appearance. It opens a whole spring and summer full of events for the scholarship fund for Marshall student-athletes, including golf outings and dinners around the state of West Virginia and outside the state as well. The 2007 Big Green Coaches Tour begins with a visit to the Four Seasons Country surrounding the twin cities of Bluefield--Virginia and West Virginia. The annual informational reception for the Putnam County fans at Sleepy Hollow Country Club will be the last stop for Herd coaches and athletic administrators on the tour. "We've got 11 stops along the way," said tour director Sam Stanley of the Big Green. "We're returning to the nine areas on last year's caravan and we've picked up two new stops."
The 2007 Big Green Coaches Tour Schedule:
• Thursday, May 3 in Bluefield, W.Va., for a dinner (Upper Classman) hosted by the Four Seasons Big Green Club.
• Friday, May 11 for golf tournament (Riverview Golf Club) in Mason, W.Va., hosted by the MGM (Mason, Meigs, Gallia) Big Green Club.
• Sunday, May 20 in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a Big Green golf tournament and cookout (Legendary Run Golf Course) hosted by the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky alumni club.
• Monday, May 21 in Lexington, Ky., (Beef O'Bradys at Palomar Center) for a dinner hosted by the Central Kentucky Big Green Club.
• Thursday, May 24 in Ironton, Ohio, for a dinner (End Zone) hosted by the Ironton/Ashland Big Green Club.
• Tuesday, May 29 in Parkersburg at The NET (North End Tavern) for a cookout hosted by the Wood County Big Green Club.
• Thursday, May 31 in Beckley for a golf tournament (Grandview Golf Course) hosted by the BACMU Big Green club.
• Sunday and Monday, June 3-4, in Charleston (Berry Hills Country Club) for a Sunday evening reception and Monday golf tournament sponsored by the Charleston Quarterback Club.
• Tuesday, June 5, in Mingo County for a golf tournament (Tug Valley Golf Course) and dinner hosted by the MAD4MU Big Green club.
• Wednesday, June 13, in Logan for a golf tournament and a dinner (Logan County Country Club) hosted by the Logan Area Marshall Athletic Club.
• Thursday, June 14, in Teays Valley for a reception and informational meeting (Sleepy Hollow Country Club) hosted by Putnam County Big Green leaders.
Complete details (locations, times and costs) will be available soon on the Big Green web page at www.MUBigGreen.com. Contact information for all Big Green area representatives are also on the web page. "Our coaches are excited about the opportunity to visit so many of our supporters," said Stanley. "The enthusiasm of Marshall fans is extremely evident at all our tour destinations." R.J. Gimbl, executive director of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation, said "The tour also gives us an avenue to provide information to hundreds of folks about our university, our student athletes and the Big Green. It's a win-win fun time for us all." Besides the Big Green Coaches Tour, the Marshall University M-Club will be sponsoring two golf tournaments--on May 18 at the Scarlet Oaks Golf Course in Nitro and on Aug. 17 at Glade Springs near Beckley. For more information about the Big Green call 866-443-8610 or 304-696-4661 or send a message via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.