Kentucky Job a Toss Up

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Coach Billy Donovan will stay at Florida, spurning a chance to return to Kentucky and take over the tradition-rich program, a person familiar with Donovan's decision said Thursday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had yet to be announced.
Donovan, who met with Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley earlier Thursday, planned to announce his decision at a 4 p.m. news conference.
Juniors Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah also were to announce Thursday whether they were staying in school or turning pro.
Freshman Marreese Speights said he had not heard about Donovan's or his teammates' decisions, but said the coach called a meeting with players at 5 p.m.
For them, Donovan's return was sure to be good news.
Donovan acknowledged interest in the Kentucky job this week, but also said he intended to stay in Gainesville and continue building the program that won consecutive national championships.
The Gators became the first team to win back-to-back titles since Duke in 1992. But following Monday night's 84-75 victory against Ohio State, Donovan's future had become the biggest question mark surrounding Florida.
Donovan became the obvious top candidate to replace Tubby Smith, who left last month to take the head job at Minnesota. Donovan was an assistant at Kentucky for five years beginning in 1989.
But he spent the last 11 years in Gainesville, putting down roots with his wife and four children. He also turned a mediocre basketball program into a national power -- at a place where football used to be king -- defying the conventional wisdom held by his mentor, Rick Pitino, his predecessor, Lon Kruger, and dozens of other naysayers around the country.
Donovan has two years remaining on his current contract worth $1.7 million annually, but was expected to sign a long-term extension. He has not yet agreed to a new deal with Florida.
University of Florida president Bernie Machen and Foley have been working on a new contract for Donovan since last year. Negotiations began during Florida's 2006 title run, but Donovan postponed signing a deal worth about $2 million because he didn't want to send the wrong message to the players who turned down NBA riches to stay in school.
Donovan's next contract could be worth considerably more now.
Kentucky received permission to talk to Donovan about its coaching vacancy Wednesday, a person familiar with the search process said earlier Thursday.
Foley left a voice mail with Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart, giving Barnhart the OK to talk with Donovan, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Within hours, names from all over the college basketball landscape were being bandied about: Texas coach Rick Barnes, Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Memphis coach John Calipari.


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