Thursday, April 5, 2007
Donovan will stay put as Florida coach
By Andy Katz
Billy Donovan will go for a three-peat at Florida after saying Thursday he will remain the Gators' coach, effectively rejecting overtures from Kentucky to return there as the potential successor to Tubby Smith.
Donovan told Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart early Thursday morning by phone that he wasn't interested in leaving a Florida program that he led Monday to the national championship for the second consecutive year.
"It came down to one thing -- I'm happy," Donovan told ESPN.com. "My family is happy. The job was never offered to me. I did talk to Mitch. I appreciate him never calling me during the NCAA tournament. He handled it first class.
"I never wanted this to be a bidding war with Kentucky and Florida. You can't buy happiness, and the school [Florida] has always taken care of me."
Donovan and Foley will discuss terms of a contract extension for the coach after Donovan returns from a planned week-long vacation to the Dominican Republic. Donovan, who leaves the country Saturday, has two years remaining on his current contract.
"As a former UK assistant, we wish him the very best," Barnhart said in a statement. "Obviously, finding the right coach is more important than finding the next coach quickly. Patience remains a priority as we continue to identify the best individual to lead the Big Blue Nation."
Even before meeting with Foley, Donovan apparently had his mind made up. Donovan told some of his close friends Wednesday night that he would not be leaving Florida, according to a source close to Donovan.
"Obviously we've been talking," Foley said. "Friday is about the celebration [of the championship, in Gainesville] and then he's [vacationing]. This is where he wants to be."
Donovan turned down a contract extension last spring after winning the 2006 national championship because he said he didn't feel right about it after four then-sophomores decided against declaring for the draft.
Barnhart left a message for Foley on Wednesday seeking permission to talk to Donovan, but Foley did not want a Donovan-Barnhart conversation to occur until speaking with Donovan himself.
Mark Schlabach tells Dan Patrick that Billy Donovan handled the speculation about his future wisely and in the end decided Florida is where he wanted to be. Listen
Kentucky's search might also include Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Marquette's Tom Crean, Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie and Gonzaga's Mark Few.
Information from ESPN.com college basketball reporter Mark Schlabach and ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde was used in this report.