Rumors Don't Distract Gators

ATLANTA (AP) - Billy Donovan roamed the sideline Monday night,
yelling, calling plays, directing players and eventually winning a
second consecutive national championship.
His jacket had long been removed, exposing a white, sweat-soaked
shirt and striped blue tie.
Blue?
But, was it Florida blue or Kentucky blue?
That was the biggest question facing the Gators after their
84-75 victory over Ohio State in the title game: Will Donovan leave
the Sunshine State for the Kentucky bluegrass?
"I just got off the court," Donovan said. "Right here at the
University of Florida I'm going to enjoy this moment right now. All
that stuff will be addressed, but now isn't the time to address it
- as it wasn't when it got asked over the week.
"It's all about these kids, our program."
Donovan's future became a distracting sideshow during Florida's
final steps in its quest to repeat. And it was sure to be a hot
topic again as Florida celebrated a history-making victory.
The Gators became the first team to win consecutive
championships since Duke in 1992.
Normally, it would just mean a contract extension for Donovan.
It could mean a change of scenery.
Since Tubby Smith left Kentucky to take the head job at
Minnesota, speculation has grown that Donovan is the Wildcats' top
choice to replace him.
Florida players shrugged off talk about Donovan's future, saying
they expect him to stay put.
Donovan has spent 11 years in Gainesville, putting down roots
with his wife and four children. His dad also lives there and
coaches Donovan's oldest son's high school basketball team, and the
Donovan's have been instrumental in getting the new school up and
running.
Oh, and Donovan 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, an assistant under Pitino in Lexington, has had several
opportunities over the past week to take his name out of
consideration for the Kentucky job.
But all Donovan said was that the search "has nothing to do
with me."
Will that change after Florida's 12th straight NCAA tournament
victory?
Donovan had said he hoped the rumors wouldn't be a distraction
in Atlanta. Some even speculated that Donovan kept the story alive
in hopes of taking the pressure off his team's bid and put the
brunt of the attention on himself. It might sound strange, but
Donovan has tried to shield his team from the constant sky-high
expectations that followed the Gators all season.
"I think there's been distractions all year long for our
basketball team," Donovan said before the Final Four. "If I were
to address this right now ... My focus is on our team, our program
and this great opportunity to play in the Final Four. To me, there
is nothing more to address. I think I've already addressed it."
Florida fans would like more.
University of Florida president Bernie Machen offered some
reassurance last week when he said, "We're not going to lose him
to anybody."
Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley have been working on a
new contract for Donovan since last year. Negotiations began during
Florida's 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 has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $1.7
million a season. His next one could be worth considerably more,
especially if the Gators win it all again and if Kentucky comes
calling as expected.


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