Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Could This Be Year Donovan Jumps to NBA?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Could This Be Year Donovan Jumps to NBA?

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

It's a lock that Billy Donovan is going to the NBA. We just don't know when the greatest coach in University of Florida history (in any sport) will make the jump.

One thing is inarguable: The Oklahoma City Thunder would be smart to have Donovan on their short list of possible replacements for Scott Brooks. The same goes for the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic, though the latter might be reluctant to pursue Donovan a second time after he backed out on them in 2007.

I'm not sure whether the 19-year Gators' boss has anywhere near the NBA success that he had in college, but he's earned the right to test a long-held ambition.

Few pro coaching jobs become available that would intrigue Donovan enough to pry him out of Gainesville, especially since wife Christine loves living there. The Thunder is one because OKC has two established stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, albeit free agents in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

It's a job where Donovan can win big immediately, and if that happens, it might entice Durant and Westbrook to keep the band together. The problem with rebuilding in the NBA is, by the time a coach can make it bear fruit, he's often fired for not getting there quick enough.

Donovan, who turns 50 next month, has never closed the NBA door. It's the No. 1 thing on his hoops bucket list, and a lot more attainable now, I'd presume, than his secret desire of someday being the U.S. Olympic coach.

At some point, Donovan won't be able to resist the NBA challenge. It'll pull him away, just as it did John Calipari, Lon Kruger and Brad Stevens. His curiosity will have to be satisfied, knowing he can always return to the college game, as most of them do.

What often gets overlooked on Donovan's list of accomplishments (two NCAA titles, four Final Fours, 16 consecutive 20-win seasons) is the very thing that makes him an attractive pro candidate: He astutely prepares his best players for the NBA life. …

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