Billy Donovan has proven more than loyal in building the Florida men’s basketball program through 17 seasons.
But in a candid interview with Dan LeBatard on AM 790 in Miami on Wednesday night, Donovan sounded like a coach still with an itch to work in the NBA someday.
When asked if he’s ruled out ever coaching in the NBA, Donovan said. “The one thing that I think is always intriguing the older I get is the fact that (the NBA) is just all about basketball. I love the practices, I love the games, I love doing individual instruction and breaking down tape and game planning and doing those things.
“Sometimes, I think, as you get older there is a lot of other things that you have to do here in college. For me, right now, I love Florida. I think the one thing that I’ve been fortunate of here is I’ve had the same athletic director, Jeremy Foley, since I first came here. He hired me and he’s still here. He’s wonderful and we have a great relationship.”
Donovan signed a three-year contact extension a year ago that pays him an average salary of $3.5 million per year through the end of the 2015-16 season. There is a $500,000 buyout, though both sides can terminate the contract without cause for a one-month window between March 1 and April 1.
In 2007, Donovan left Florida to accept a head coaching job with the Orlando Magic, but returned to Florida six days later after a change of heart. Donovan said in the radio interview it was a “gut feeling” to return to Florida. Family also played a role in the decision. Donovan’s two oldest children were just starting high school at the time, and in a Gainesville speaking engagement a few years ago, Donovan said “it’s very rare in this day and age in coaching to have one of your sons go through elementary school, middle school and high school in one city.”
Donovan’s two oldest children are now in college (his daughter Hasbrouck is on an equestrian scholarship at Auburn and son Billy is a walk-on with the UF men’s basketball team). He perhaps also is intrigued by the NBA after seeing the success his former players are having at the next level. There are 10 former Gators currently in the NBA and three (Joakim Noah, Al Horford and David Lee) are averaging double-doubles. It’s not a stretch to say Donovan could put together a roster of former players and build an NBA-playoff caliber ballclub.
Here’s what former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said last month when asked if Donovan’s coaching style would be successful at the NBA level.
“He’d be great,” Van Gundy said. “There’s no doubt about it. I know the guy’s offense would translate great to the NBA level. He knows how to work to that level, that mentality because he’s coached a lot of pro-caliber players.”