The Oklahoma City Thunder made it official Thursday in hiring Florida's Billy Donovan as their head coach. How does this affect the NCAA Basketball betting odds & futures picks?
First off, let me state that I'm pretty confident that Donovan doesn't change his mind this time. In 2007, shortly after winning his second straight national championship with the Gators, he took the Orlando Magic job. Donovan kept it for about five minutes before deciding to return to Gainesville. The Magic put a five-year non-compete clause on Donovan for allowing him out of that deal so he couldn't become an NBA coach during that stretch. Donovan reportedly was tired of recruiting and I'm sure it's no fun to have to battle superpower Kentucky for all those blue-chippers.
And let's be clear: as long as John Calipari is in Lexington, UK casts a huge shadow over the rest of the SEC. That said, Florida is still one of the best 15 jobs in the country and certainly No. 2 in that conference. It might not be Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas or UCLA but it's in the next tier. Good facilities and a great school and college town. It's not hard recruiting there and Kentucky can only take a few guys every year.
Here are the most likely candidates to replace Donovan, who was hired as an untested 30-year-old by current AD Jeremy Foley in 1996 -- Foley's job could be on the line soon as he also had to hire a football coach this year. If he gets both wrong ...
Seven To Consider
Archie Miller, Dayton (+200 NCAA Basketball Odds): The younger brother of Arizona coach Sean (sorry Gators fans, Sean isn't leaving Tucson) seems to be the consensus favorite among those in the know who cover University of Florida sports. The 36-year-old Miller led the Flyers to the Elite Eight in the 2014 NCAA Tournament where they lost 62-52 to Donovan's top-ranked Gators. In the 2015 Big Dance, Dayton beat Boise State in a First Four game and then Providence in the Round of 64 before falling to Oklahoma. Dayton has thus won five NCAA Tournament games the last two seasons, one of only six programs to accomplish that feat. Miller got an extension through the 2022 season after the tournament, but money won't matter to Florida.
A current UF assistant (+400): By this I mean either Anthony Grant or John Pelphrey. Grant was UF’s top assistant when the Gators won the 2006 national title, left after that for the head job at VCU and was very successful. He parlayed that into the Alabama job, where he was so-so. The Tide fired him in March after six seasons and Donovan brought him back. Pelphrey has been Donovan's top assistant since 2011. Before that he was a successful head coach at South Alabama from 2002-07 but not so much at Arkansas from 2007-11, where he was 69-59. He probably didn't deserve to be fired after a 18-13 season in his final year. Both these guys would bring continuity and run the same systems, presumably. But I'm not sure either has enough buzz to satisfy Florida fans. Then again, UF fans are now focused on football through the end of the year.
Richard Pitino, Minnesota (+500): Of course Donovan's mentor was Rick Pitino, the father of Richard, who spent two seasons as an assistant on Donovan's staff (2009-11) before leaving to join his dad at Louisville. Richard Pitino took over at Florida International in 2012 at age 29 and did a great job in leading that downtrodden program to an 18-14 mark. That led to the head coaching job at Minnesota, where Pitino, now 32, is 43-28 in two seasons.
Chris Mack, Xavier (+750): Arizona certainly has been satisfied in hiring a Xavier coach (Sean Miller) as has Ohio State (Thad Matta). Mack has led the Musketeers to NCAA Tournament in five of his six seasons at Xavier and been to three Sweet 16s, including in 2015. He'd certainly take the job if offered.
Jaime Dixon, Pittsburgh (+800): He has been at Pitt since 2003 and has a sterling 307-111 record playing in two of the nation's top conferences, the Big East and now ACC. However, the Panthers tend to flop in the NCAA Tournament as they haven't won more than one game in the Big Dance since 2009. And they missed the tournament this past season with a 19-15 record. The bloom might be off Dixon's rose a bit now.
Jay Wright, Villanova (+1000): Wright was mentioned as a possibility for the open Texas job, which went to VCU's Shaka Smart (who would have been a lock candidate for Florida). Wright has coached Villanova to back-to-back Big East regular-season championships, although the Wildcats have face-planted in the NCAA Tournament. Wright is a native of the northeast and may not want to leave Pennsylvania.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State (+2000): Florida would probably love to have Marshall, but he just got a huge raise from WSU after passing on Alabama's interest. Marshall seems happy at a basketball-first school and should have a very good team again next season with All-American candidates Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet passing up the NBA Draft.
NCAAB Free Pick: It's Miller's job to lose.