GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Coach Billy Donovan will stay at
Florida, spurning a chance to return to Kentucky and take over the
tradition-rich program. Donovan met with Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley earlier Thursday and agreed to stay at the place he's taken to consecutive national titles.
"After finally having an opportunity to sit down with my
family, and with Jeremy Foley, I've decided that I will remain at
the University of Florida," Donovan said in a statement. "I have
great respect for the University of Kentucky, its great history and
tradition, and I had five wonderful years in Lexington.
"That being said, I'm very proud of what we've built here at
the University of Florida and I look forward to continuing to build
Florida planned a 4 p.m. news conference Thursday to formally
announce Donovan's decision. Juniors Corey Brewer, Taurean Green,
Al Horford and Joakim Noah also were to be there, announcing
whether they are staying in school or turning pro.
Donovan acknowledged interest in the Kentucky job this week,
saying he had a lot of admiration for the Wildcats. But he also
said he intended to stay in Gainesville.
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. The coach and Kentucky AD Mitch
Barnhart met early Thursday morning, and Donovan later told him he
intended to stay at Florida.
"I had a conversation with Billy Donovan today to gauge any
interest he might have in the head coaching position at Kentucky,"
Barnhart said in a statement. "Billy informed me that he intends
to stay in Gainesville. As a former UK assistant, we wish him the
"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
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