Well it was quite the night on the Billy Donovan front if you were following along on the internet.
The madness kicked off around 11 p.m. when Darrell Bird of CatsPause.com published a story on the sites front page claiming that Donovan had officially been offered a deal worth a reported $28 million over seven years.
Now here's where the first debate begins.
Some say that Bird's original story alleged that the deal was already done, and that minutes after it had already been published he edited the story to say only that an offer had been made, and edited the title so that it included a question mark and didn't state matter of factly that Donovan was certainly going to be the next head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.
I never saw the original story so I have no idea whether or not this is true.
Regardless, both WLEX in Lexington and WAVE 3 in Louisville saw this and ran with it during the sports segment of their 11 p.m. broadcast. Both networks stated definitively that Donovan was going to be the next Wildcat coach, with WLEX stating on-air: "Billy Donovan will be named the new Kentucky basketball coach shortly after Florida's final game in the NCAA tournament."
A story on the front of the Lexington network's website goes on to say:
According to CatsPause.com, the reported package is a seven year deal worth $3.5 million per year. The report further states there is a $3.5 million loyalty bonus if Donovan completes all seven years.
So naturally at this point UK fans are in a frenzy as multiple stations have confirmed that their top choice to replace Tubby Smith has been landed, but Matt Jones of KSR was the first to wonder out loud whether or not the story leaking was a good thing.
The question is whether this is good. From now until Monday, Billy Donovan will be forced to answer questions on the subject from not only the news media, but also likely his team and the university. What was before today a "wait until the season is over" story has now, thanks to the Darrell Bird story, become a "we have to ask you now" story. When you say a deal is done, folks want to know if the deal is done. That means that Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators are in for distractions aplenty.
Will these distractions turn Billy Donovan against UK? One hopes not.....but I think all involved, including the UK folks wish that if the story is true (which may still be a big if, who knows?), it had not gotten out at this point. Everyone's interests were served if the story hadnt been released. UK gets its coach....Florida gets a chance at a second championship....Billy Donovan avoids distractions. What about now? The story is out......but will UK and its possible new coach pay the price? Only time will tell......
With the internet officially in a tizzy, the man who started it all posted a response to the inordinate amount of Donovan chatter on CatsPause.
I put a one paragraph teaser on main page simply to direct folks to the message board, same as we did with Sunday's Scuttlebutt segment. That's it. If this had been a news story announcing UK will sign its coach I would have included comments from UK officials.
This is one of several rumors circulating -- only this one can't be shot down -- and from what I've learned these are the details. But we are still a long way from done as evidenced by the reference to another story coming up about Plan B candidates if this doesn't pan out. (I've been told some media outlets ran with this info as fact, which is unfortunate but I can't control that.)
I can appreciate the excitement over the possibilities, but let's take a breath. And thanks to everyone who read it for what it is, adding comments like, "I hope this is true." "I'll keep my fingers crossed."
So basically either Bird did state (intentionally or unintentionally) that the Donovan thing was a done deal and then edited his story to say otherwise, or the pair of networks (intentionally or unintentionally) took Bird's story out of context and reported that the Donovan thing was a done deal on air.
Now as much as I'd love for this to turn into a Rich Rodriguez is Alabama-bound, my gut tells me that UK is going to get their man when all is said and done. In fact, it really wouldn't surprise me if this leak had been intentional so that UK could benefit from a recruiting standpoint.
Patrick Patterson, who is bound for UF at the moment but would likely follow Donovan if he went somewhere else, has stated publicly that he wants to make a final decision a few days after Wednesday's McDonald's All-American game. Also, Florida commit and fellow McDonald's All American Nick Calathes (who finished second in Monday's three-point shooting competition at Bellarmine) said Monday that if Donovan were to leave for Kentucky he would follow him.
"I've been hearing a lot of rumors since I have been here," Calathes said. "If he comes to Kentucky, then I will come with him. I will definitely follow him wherever he goes."
"I do not want to play for a coach who hasn't seen me," he added. "I wouldn't even wait to see who they hired. Coach Donovan first saw me play when I was 11 years old, and that is who I want to play for."
Donovan coming would also undoubtedly lock up another Burger Boy, Jai Lucas.
If I'm Derrick Jasper I'm doing everything I can to keep The Kid in Gainesville.
Even though it seems far-fetched, when you read quotes like "I'm not going to judge him. He's going to have a decision to make just like a lot of us are going to have a decision to make" from Joakim Noah, it definitely makes you consider the possibility that Donovan has already told his guys that he's leaving.
It actually isn't that absurd considering "The O'Fours" minus Taurean Green are all but gone after this season regardless of how things play out this weekend. Donovan telling the team that he's leaving wouldn't necessarily make them play any less hard than they would have otherwise. It's simply the last hurrah for something good; Phil Jackson did the same thing with the Bulls in '98 and things turned out all right there.
You're going to hear a lot of "Rumors are bound to start with a coaching vacancy at a place like Kentucky, right now I'm completely focused on getting my guys ready for UCLA" talk from Billy D tomorrow, but where there's smoke there's almost always fire and I think this thing truly is, to use the phrase for the 29th time tonight, a done deal.
While on one level it sucks for us as a fan base because Donovan is an undeniably great coach, it's great for the rivalry and for the state of hoops in the Commonwealth as a whole, and it's great for me because I hate him.
So a premature congratulations from us to you Big Blue Nation.