In 2007, Billy Donovan had a deal lined up to leave the college ranks and coach the Orlando Magic. But one day after his press conference was held, Donovan changed his mind and went back to the Florida Gators for a cool $3.5 million per year. Hard to argue against that decision; while Donovan hasn’t brought the Gators back to the Promised Land after winning back-to-back championships, Florida has reached the Elite Eight in each of the last four seasons, earning Donovan yet another contract extension.
That hasn’t stopped needy NBA teams from testing the waters. According to an ESPN report, Donovan has admitted that “several” teams have called him, but he won’t divulge their identities, and he insists he’s “very happy” in Gainesville. We’re being told the Cleveland Cavaliers are among the suitors – and they need all the help they can get, after missing out on the playoffs at 33-49 straight up and 40-42 against the basketball betting lines.
Get Thy Bearings
Donovan isn’t the only college basketball bigwig the Cavs have targeted. Other prominent names being floated for their vacant head coaching position include Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans and Fred Hoiberg of the Iowa State Cyclones. Former Cavs guard Kevin Ollie was also reportedly in the mix, but as we told you last week, Ollie is staying with the champion Connecticut Huskies on a well-deserved extension of his own.
It’s easy to see why Donovan and Ollie might not be falling over themselves to coach the Cavaliers. Even if we give Cleveland’s remodeled front office the benefit of the doubt, not everyone has the ideal personality for coaching at the NBA level. For every Brad Stevens, there’s a John Calipari, a Rick Pitino and a Mike Montgomery. Even a five-year, $35-million deal and total control of the program was reportedly not enough for the Detroit Pistons to get Izzo out of East Lansing.
But what about Hoiberg? He was being discussed as a potential replacement for Marc Jackson with the Golden State Warriors, and there are those who believe he’ll soon take over for Tom Thibodeau, who might be suitably fed up with the Chicago Bulls after they shipped off Luol Deng to the Cavaliers in an obvious salary dump. However, the Iowa State Cyclones recently gave Hoiberg a healthy raise from $2 million a year to $2.6 million, rewarding him for taking the Cyclones to the Sweet 16. The Cavs might just have to settle for another NBA coaching retread.
As for Donovan, why would he leave the Gators when so many talented young players are coming to Gainesville to play for him? They’ve picked up yet another intriguing transfer in 6-foot-10 center John Egbunu, who posted a healthy 15.4 PER as a freshman while starting for the South Florida Bulls. By the way, that’s the fifth player to transfer out of USF after the firing of coach Stan Heath, although Egbunu was the only core player among the five.
It’ll be another year before Egbunu is eligible to play for the Gators, but they can afford to wait. Donovan has the No. 11-ranked recruiting Class of 2014 at Scout.com, featuring a five-star prospect in 6-foot-8 PF Devin Robinson. On top of that, there are five more transfers besides Egbunu waiting to be deployed. The most notable of them might be forward Jon Horford – yes, he’s the younger brother of Al Horford, who was a very big part of those two national championships that the Gators won under Donovan. Horford is eligible to play this year as a graduate student after posting a solid 18.8 PER as a junior with the Michigan Wolverines.