Billy the Kid heads west to Oklahoma City

I was once in a relationship for ten years, which in all fairness lasted about six years longer than it should have.  In its final days, things had gone sour.  Despite living together, we had grown apart.  Goals differed; disagreements had become far more frequent.  With passion long gone, the relationship had run its course.  We did the right thing and parted ways.

Billy NetsBilly Donovan has been in Gainesville a lot longer than ten years.  Try doubling that, which equates to almost half his life.  Donovan first arrived in Gainesville in 1996.  While he didn’t put Gator basketball on the map, he certainly took it to the next level.  Norm Sloan and Lon Kruger both had success before him but it wasn’t until Billy the Kid trotted into town that back-to-back championship banners were hung.

I was living in Gainesville at the time, going to a fair amount of games the years they won those two titles.  While Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer were all dunking on people’s heads, I remember telling a friend “Enjoy this while it last for it will never be this good again.”  Unless your name is Mike Krzyzewski, winning one national championship is difficult enough.  Look at Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan for instance.  He’s 70 years old and just coached for his first national championship.  At 49, Donovan already has two.

He won’t be getting any more, at least not any time soon.

Let that sink in, Gator fans, and when you finally do, it might also help to realize that change is good.

Billys New KidsSet your egos aside and understand that Oklahoma City was the better job.  The opportunity to coach both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook proved too tempting to pass up.  No more endless recruiting trips or silly NCAA rules.

But this is no sure thing for either Billy D or the Thunder.  Both Durant and Westbrook have contracts that expire soon, which means if they don’t vibe with Billy the Kid, Donovan could be stuck in OKC with just his Munster in his hand.  The Western Conference is not for beginners and Donovan has zero NBA head coaching experience.  It’s not like college coaches jumping to the NBA have a long history of success.  It’s a different game altogether, even if you are lucky enough to coach two of the most talented players in the league.  I understand that the Thunder wanted a fresh face but as good as Coach Donovan is, the recently fired Scotty Brooks did take the Thunder to an NBA Finals.

By the way, I take back what I said earlier.  Donovan actually has coached in the NBA before… for a day.  He never even made it to the arena.  Realizing he had made a mistake, he high-tailed it back to Gainesville leaving the Orlando Magic, the team he agreed to coach, high and dry.

Donovan OKCThis was in 2007.  The NBA suspended Donovan, disallowing from having any further negotiations with the league.  That suspension has passed.  So has his time in Gainesville.

Half of Gator Nation panicked when they heard the announcement.  They didn’t see the writing on the wall.  How could life ever be the same?  Those are probably the same Gator fans stuck in relationships that lasted too long.  All good things must come to an end.   All bad things too.

While Donovan took the Gators to a Final Four two years ago, the fourth of his tenure at Florida, last year’s disaster of a team finished 16-17.  It was the first time this century a team he coached didn’t win 20 games.  Something had happened.  Donovan had lost his desire.

The search for Donovan’s replacement is underway.  Several names have already surfaced.  They won’t be Billy Donovan and we shouldn’t expect them to be.  However, they will bring a fire and a passion that had been missing.

Yes, there will be change.  And that’s a good thing.

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12 Replies to “Billy the Kid heads west to Oklahoma City”

  1. Can Donovan still persuade Durant to remain in Oklahoma ? If not then this move could end up being a bad one .

    So some NFL analysts are urging Roger Goodell to come down hard on the Patriots after the findings in the Ted Wells’ report , even citing that Tom Brady ought to be fined and suspended ? How many black eyes does the NFL need to have , for fans to realize Roger Goodell remains a di#k ? Those in the know , obviously have no idea the Commish doesn’t want to bite one of the hands of his main supporters , Robert Kraft , who led the charge in him , getting his current position.

    If there is any punishment to be meted out , it will be minimal . It’s not going to look good from a PR standpoint if the league comes down heavy on the Patriots. I mean , after the Bounty-Gate Scandal and the idiocy of the punishment meted out there . Who in their right mind actually believes this commissioner has the balls to come down hard on anyone ?

  2. That’s really the key here, Al. The NBA is a totally different ball game. Egos need to be caressed, even if they are easy going cats like Durant.

    In the NBA, players get coaches fired, not the other way around. I would imagine keeping both Durant and Westbrook in Oklahoma City is the optimum situation. Can Donovan make that happen?

    Come down hard on the Pats for DeflateGate? I guess they already did that with SpyGate but do they have any more proof in this case than they did with the cameras? It’s all so damn silly.

  3. I just get amused when the NBA comes a knockin’ on the door of NCAA winning head coaches. For me it defines desperate to keep a fan base. Too many Petino’s (Knicks and Celtics) and Calipari’s (Nets) out there that have proven that winning at the NCAA level is a completely animal than winning in the NBA. Completely different coaching styles that do not automatically translate success. The only way Donovan will deemed to have succeeded in OKC is if he wins it all and that will probably have to be next year. If he doesn’t, he’ll be on the sideline at Grand Canyon University in no time.

  4. Hope ya’ll don’t mind me continuing to jump in here, but I enjoy reading your thoughts and am in a “talkative” mood. Donovan has nothing to lose here if he was ready to leave Gainesville. His hireability (is that a word?) in the college ranks will not be hurt if he doesn’t succeed in the NBA – I won’t even bother to list previous college-to-pro-to back to college guys. Get a big paycheck with no worries about the NCAA enforcers – if it works, it works – if it doesn’t, find the next plum job in college. Never been to OKC but it can’t be worse than Gainesville, can it (sorry SportsChump)?

  5. Mark…

    Donovan is a great coach. Donovan is a great basketball coach. In fact, Donovan is one of the best coaches to ever coach the college game.

    That being said, we have no idea how he’ll fare in the NBA.

    Pitino’s success (or failure) got a bad rap. Calipari was a bust but he coached a horrible team. Larry Brown obviously won a title in Detroit (and in Kansas).

    Didn’t Tarkanian also have a short stint with the Spurs?

    The point is it’s an entirely different game. While the X’s and O’s, the fundamentals remain the same, the ego’s are dramatically different.

    Donovan’s wound pretty tight. Will that translate? I guess we’ll see.

  6. Moose…

    The more the merrier. That’s what the site is here for.

    Donovan was a king in Gainesville but he probably couldn’t leave the house much without being bombarded by college kids wanting his autograph. That’s gotta get tiring.

    I’ve been to Oklahoma City. I went to some country bar there. It was the first time I had ever encountered a hundred people in cowboys hats and jeans all dancing in a line in a circle. I doubt Billy the Kid will be spending much time there but I imagine he’ll have a little more privacy in Oklahoma (yeehaw) than in Gainesville.

    Plus if he sucks there, nobody will be asking for his autograph.

  7. Chris

    Coming down hard on the Pats concerning the Spygate Scandal ? The punishment was a goddamn joke . $2.5 million and an eight-game suspension for Belichick ? The franchise has annual revenues exceeding $150 million and you believe Goodell and his cabal of @ssholes came down hard on the franchise ? The league like Justice System are soft on crime and simply a bunch of pu##ies . A great deal of the finding in the Wells’ Report is circumstantial and the inquiry was something of a joke , because there was no in-depth interviews really conducted with players and staff other than the texts revealed and the e-mails . Make of it what you will.

  8. Gotta add this about Donovan. My oldest son was playing in a state tournament quarterfinals high school basketball game in 2011 against an umpteen times state champion team and BD was there recruiting a big time player on the other team (FL didn’t get him – UCLA did). Our team was 29-0 at the time…of course we lost, but Billy asked to speak to our team in their locker room after the game. Without going into details he talked to them about how impressed he was about them playing as a “team”; it was a special moment for a bunch of kids that were never going to play big-boy basketball. I spoke with him briefly as well. Don’t know about his day-to-day act, but he was a class act that night. I wish him the best.

  9. Al…

    I hear the league might suspend Brady. What would be an appropriate suspension considering those who beat a female get two games?

    Should Brady be suspended for like, a minute?

  10. That’s a great story, Moose.

    Thanks for adding that.

    It’s stories like that that give us insight into a man’s true character. That’s not something he HAD to do. That’s something he CHOSE to do.

    Damn, now I’m pissed he left, he he.

  11. No offense, but I hope he falls flat on his grill at the pro level.

    …But only because it increases the possibility that Durant and/or Westbrook could possibly end up in a Lakers uniform.

    I know, I know…I’m as deep as a puddle.

    Not like I try to hide it.

  12. In my mind, Bleed, that’s going to be Donovan’s biggest obstacle.

    How’s he going to compete with the lure of Tinseltown?

    If anything, I’d say the hiring of Donovan means it’s MORE likely that one of those two guys heads to L.A.

    That just got you aroused, didn’t it?

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