Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kentucky Dreamin’

Word is it that Kentucky wants our basketball coach.

Badly, in fact.

Kentucky chat boards are filled right now with rumors of private planes, secret contracts and home purchases. $3.5 million a year? It’s a done deal!

The rumor mill hasn’t been this hot since – well since Alabama fired Mike Shula last November.

No similarities here – move along now, nothing to see.

To hear the tone of the Kentucky fans on the chat boards, the radio, and from members of my own family – hiring Billy Donovan would be the cure for all the ills of the “dark” Tubby Smith years. After all, had Tubby not resigned, it was widely assumed (and widely wanted) that he would be fired.

Tubby, after all, had ruined Kentucky basketball, leading the Wildcats to one National Championship in 1998, a perfect 16-0 regular season conference record in 2003, five SEC regular season championships (1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005) and five SEC Tournament titles (1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004), with six Sweet Sixteen finishes and three Elite Eight finishes (1999, 2003, 2005) in his nine seasons. He totaled 100 wins quicker than any other Wildcat coach except Hall of Famer Adolph Rupp, reaching the plateau in 130 games.

However, in 2006 the Smith led Wildcats only advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament, losing to a number 1 seed. Tubby had to go.

So, Wildcat fans are all agog at the prospect of a coach with the following comparative record –

And while we are making comparisons, take a look at this –

Clearly, Smith had been a major failure at Kentucky.

So, are the rumors to be believed, Kentucky now comes calling for Donovan, fat dollars in hand. Forgotten seemingly is the often leveled accusation by those very same Wildcats that Billy Donovan was a choker – a coach who after a trip to the finals in 2000 ,was eliminated in the first or second round of the NCAA’s for 5 consecutive years.

So, hire away Donovan if you will, Kentucky. Florida has more athletic dollars in their petty cash fund than UK has in their whole school. We will be just fine. Hiring a top recruiter, and accomplished college coach, will be easy now. Billy made it so.

And, Billy if he goes to Kentucky, will get to play that new Florida coach too.

Finally, if in the next 11 seasons, Donovan brings you only a single NCAA title, and 3 SEC titles, will you be satisfied? (As Donovan has done for Florida)

Or, if he merely does as well as Pitino did – with a single NCAA and 2 SEC regular season titles in 8 years, will that be enough?

Because if it is not, a coach with a much better record just left the Bluegrass state for Minnesota.

UPDATE: A commentator to this thread states that “UK has more money than you apparently have sense”.

Well that might be true, they don’t have anywhere near the money Florida has.

Here are the statistics for the latest year available (2005). Please be aware that Florida instituted a new (and very expensive) basketball-only booster program last year, so the current figures for UF would be much, much higher.

Total Athletic Contributions (Donations)

Florida $26,896,283 (3rd Nationally)
Kentucky $8,060,667 (37th Nationally)

Florida advantage - 3.3 times

Total Athletic Operating Expenses

Florida $73,868,754
Kentucky $52,462,483

Florida Advantage – 1.4 times

Total Sports Revenue

Florida $77,742,484
Kentucky $54,536,426

Florida Advantage – 1.4 times

Don’t think there is a big difference between $77 million and $54 million. Well, in 2005, those amounts made Florida the 4th highest school in the NCAA (Ohio State was 1st at $89 million). Kentucky was 17th, just ahead of Minnesota…

You can see from the above that Kentucky had a “profit” (if you will) of $2,073,943 in 2005. (As noted, with Florida’s two recent national championships and increased donor costs, our amounts would be far higher, reportedly exceeding $100 million total revenue presently. Kentucky’s amount would be fairly stable.)

With $2 million “to spare”, if Kentucky were to pay Donovan $3.5 million dollars, they would be essentially spending all the excess revenue in their program.

And for what would Kentucky be blowing their athletic budget for? Guaranteed success?


Kentucky fans, like the delusional fans of Alabama football, seem to remember a time too fondly when winning the NCAA championship, or even the SEC was much easier. Yet, in winning the SEC 5 times in 9 years (55%), Smith was not good enough.

So what is good enough? Only Final Four appearances?
Because, if Final Four appearances is your only standard, perpetual disappointment is sure to be yours.


Anonymous said...

You must be kidding me, UK has more money than you apparently have sense and Billy has always dreamed of coaching at the winingest basketball school in the nation. He is the man for the job.

Anonymous said...

I concur. Billy is the man for the job!

Still doesn't mean he wants the job.

Anonymous said...

UK fans are funny. I think everyone should have a pet UK fan.

Anonymous said...

Billy's job is to make Florida the winningest basketball school, and he's working on it by beating the Mildcats 6 times in a row.

Anonymous said...

Whatever, I think you guys will be feeling very BLUE (no punt intended) come next Tuesday. Mrs. Donovan has been in Lexington looking at horse farms this week, I tend to think that would not be necessary if a move wasn't imminent. We sahal wait and see.

Mergz said...

Err, Anon - our colors are BLUE also...

As for the crazy rumors about Mrs. Donovan, there is not a single credible source that she has been in Kentucky at all. Sure, I know your cousin's friend's ex-husband's dog saw her looking at/buying/re-selling 6 or 7 homes last week, but I can't consider that a credible source.

Think about it for a second - would a coach about to lead a team in the Final Four send his wife home shopping? If so, why? Do they need a home RIGHT AWAY if he takes the UK job?

Please. Do yourself some credit - don't listen to silly rumors.

Yant said...

Excellent job Mergz. I wonder why all the major news outlets that report on this whole Billy Donovan/ Tubby Smith thing don't mention these stats.

Exactly what are Kentucky fans expecting Billy the Kid to do there? The '04s contribute the vast majority of his success, and he can't take them to UK. Two years ago, Billy was the coach who couldn't get past the first weekend of the NCAA tourney, and now he's a genius? I just don't see it.

Billy's a good coach and a great recruiter, but if Kentucky fans think he'll take them to multiple SEC and NCAA Championships, I think they're going to be sorely disappointed.

Anonymous said...

The original poster had it right...if he took the job he'd be coaching at the whiniest basketball school in the nation.

Mike said...

Mergz, you make some very good points, but I have to be honest, I am a little lost as to your ultimate point. Are you saying Kentucky is crazy for going after Donovan because Florida is a better job or because Smith is a better coach and they are pinning their hopes on a lesser coach? I am not being smart, I am just trying to understand the direction you are taking.

To me, Kentucky is taking the right approach. Although I am the furtherst thing from a Gator fan in this world, I think Donovan is about as good a coach as there is in the business, so why not try to get him? And if the direction being taken is Donovan is crazy to consider leaving a school like Florida, that is also illogical. Money aside, Kentucky presents Donovan the chance to be all that I think he strives to be...the center of attention. He will NEVER be that at Florida, no matter how many Final Fours he goes to. Florida struggles to sell out all of their games a year after winning the championship (don't have exact numbers, but read somewhere that they didn't sell out 8 or so games) while Kentucky put 23000 people in an arena for PRACTICE, a practice that started at midnight no less.

Kentucky fans are insane (in a good way, for the most part) and they live for their hoops. What coach in their right mind wouldn't want that, at least for a couple of years?

So I guess it comes down to what Billy really wants. Does he want the money? Florida is his job. Does he want the most challenging job? Kentucky is for him. Does he want to be the center of his school's universe? Kentucky again. Does he want to ultimately be an NBA coach? Gotta stick with Florida. Four pressing questions that are likely at the center of his decision making process. 2-2 i the score on those question, so I guess we will see which way he goes.

Go Bucks!