31 May 2007

Farewell, Kid

Today, Billy Donovan signed with the Orlando Magic. My initial reaction was a Vader-esque “Nooooooo”. After that, anger kicked in. How dare he? He has a contract with the Gators, after all. He’s just won two consecutive national championships.

Of course, his entire starting lineup is gone – Lee Humphrey graduated, and the Horford/Noah/Brewer/Green set all turned pro – but still, it wasn’t like Florida was going to be entirely destitute of talent. Walter Hodge has shown flashes in the past, and Nick Calethas, Chandler Parsons, and Jai Lucas are incoming freshmen. The Gators weren’t going to three-peat, but they would have been solid.

Then I saw the contract – 5 years, $27.5 million – and I, if not accepted, at least understood. No way the Gators can match that. Their top offer, which they made May 15, was only supposed to be in the neighborhood of $3 million per year – nothing to sneeze at, but hardly equal to what the Magic are offering.

The Gators will be okay. Early indications are that Anthony Grant – who was an assistant with UF a little while ago – will be hired to take Donovan’s place. Watching Grant coach this year at VCU (okay, so just in his conference tournament and the NCAAs), he looked, unsurprisingly, a lot like Donovan. If the recruits decide to stay, there shouldn’t be too much of a rebuilding period beyond what was already anticipated.

The Magic have hired a good coach. Donovan will do well with Dwight Howard and (hopefully) Darko Milicic in the post, and Jameer Nelson hustling out on the perimeter. It’ll be interesting to see how much of an adjustment Donovan has to make to adapt his style to the NBA, but he’s already shown that he’s quite adaptable – his championship teams of the last two years haven’t been the type of full-court pressing, scrambling “Billy-ball” teams that made him famous (see: 1999 Cinderella); they’ve played a much more pro-style game, posting up and playing defense. He’ll be fine.

Am I upset about Donovan leaving? Yes. Can I get over it. Yes. The Gators will recover, the Magic will improve, and Donovan will be several million dollars richer. To quote Bill Cowher, Ed Reed, Michael Vick, Joey Porter, Ike Taylor, Bill Belichick, John Fox, and the great Al Gore, “It is what it is.”

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