1 » With the Florida Gators back on top, head coach Billy Donovan will once be written about as someone who could potentially jump to the NBA after the season. Even after he accepted the Orlando job, changed his mind and returned to Florida, Donovan has still been heavily considered by some of the top franchises in the league and remains a hot name to this day whenever there are coaching openings. There also happens to be no better team to link Donovan with than the New York Knicks, his hometown squad, the only franchise he played for in the NBA – and as it so happens – one that tends to make a coaching change every other year. ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O’Connor on Tuesday night listed Donovan as a top-five candidate to take what is expected to be an open job with the Knicks after the 2013-14 season.
He has a chance to win his third national title at Florida and, at 48, he might finally be ready for the new career challenge he accepted (and then declined days later) from the Orlando Magic in 2007. Donovan grew up on Long Island and lived out his boyhood dream when he played 44 games for Rick Pitino’s Knicks in 1987-88.
Though he still loves to tell stories of the time his mother took him to the Garden and bought him a Clyde Frazier T-shirt, Donovan rejected Isiah Thomas’ attempt to hire him as Knicks coach years ago. Would he consider leaving Florida after 18 seasons for a chance to rebuild the only team he ever wanted to play for?
“Billy would be an awesome NBA coach,” said one source who knows him well. “He doesn’t have any professional coaching experience, but Brad Stevens is managing it well in Boston and that should give the Knicks more confidence to look that way. I just don’t know if Billy would do it.”
“If I can’t get Jeff Van Gundy,” said a second source, “my next guy is Billy Donovan. Maybe he should be the Knicks’ first choice because he doesn’t have Jeff’s baggage from coaching there before. He runs a pro offense, his teams defend and I think he’s got the personality for it.”
Donovan-to-New York always has and always will make sense. However, these Knicks are not the franchise of his youth. New York has major problems in ownership, the front office and on the court with a roster hamstrung for 2014-15 and set to potentially lose its best player in Carmelo Anthony. Donovan, if or when he jumps to the NBA, would seemingly do so at an opportune time. He’s had plenty of chances in the past but turned them down to remain with the Gators where he is comfortable and working for a great friend in athletic director Jeremy Foley. Donovan still has a son who he is coaching and will remain around the team (he just got accepted to graduate school at Florida), and his father is also in town. Donovan-to-the Knicks does make sense, one day, maybe two years from now when New York is looking for the next big name coach to save the franchise. Then again, perhaps the lure of his favorite team will be too great. Perhaps owner Jim Dolan will offer too much power and money to turn down. You just never know.