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Donovan has declined UK twice; could the third time be the charm?
This is the coach that is seemingly always on the short list of candidates for the Kentucky head coaching position. The previous two openings speculated that Billy Donovan was one of the favorites to land the job. His time as an assistant coach at Kentucky and his success at Florida seemed to make him a perfect match.
However, he turned down the position and never stepped foot in Lexington. He insisted that he was happy coaching the Florida basketball program, even declining a head coaching position with the NBA's Orlando Magic at the last minute.
With that being said, Donovan is still a premier candidate to coach at Kentucky if John Calipari leaves in the near future. For starters, he has won two NCAA national championships and is one of the best recruiters in the country. He also has that Kentucky connection that fans love in a new hire.
It is true that Billy turned down the position before, but the Kentucky job was very different at those times. When Tubby Smith left, the Kentucky program had fallen in stature and the nation's top recruits continually turned down the Wildcats. It was a high-profile position that had too much uncertainty at the time.
Smith's departure also came right on the heels of Donovan winning his second consecutive title at Florida. His future seemed extremely bright there, and they were the best program in the SEC. For Donovan, there was little incentive to leave a low-pressure job at the nation's hottest basketball program to take over a pressure cooker that had lost its stature as a national power.
The school hired Billy Gillispie, then quickly fired him two seasons later. Yet again, the Kentucky program was in limbo and just came off of its first NIT appearance in decades. Gillispie wreaked havoc on the Kentucky brand and turned it into a less desirable position than it was before he was hired.
Yet again, there was no reason for Donovan to leave Florida. Although he himself came off an appearance in the NIT, Florida was still a better basketball school at the time than Kentucky.
Then came Calipari, who has completely restored the Kentucky program and now has the Wildcats back on the pedestal of college basketball. They are the defending national champions heading into next season, and the nation's top recruits are buzzing about UK like no other school in recent memory.
This is why Donovan might be interested in the position if it comes open. He has seen what Calipari has done with the school and sees its full potential. There is no doubt that the Kentucky men's basketball program can succeed at the highest level more than any other school when it is run by the right man.
Donovan would be a great replacement for Calipari if he were to leave, and he would be more tempted than ever to accept the offer now that he has seen Kentucky running at its fullest potential.