The college basketball coaching carousel has reared its ugly head once again, this time in the form of Billy Donovan leaving Florida for the Orlando Magic head coaching job. There are two moral questions here, the first of which is whether or not Donovan did the "right" thing by leaving Florida for the Magic job. The answer to this is simple: Donovan is free to take whatever job he wants. America is a free market economy, and Donovan's skills will be more highly compensated by Orlando. Case closed. The second question though, is where the waters begin to muddy: did Donovan handle his departure in a moral way? The answer to that one, is a resounding no. Donovan took a page or two out of the Billy Gillespie/Bob Huggins handbook with his exit strategy, saying just last week that he wouldn't be interested in an NBA coaching position, and also sticking around just long enough to sign Jai Lucas two weeks ago. When interviewed yesterday, Jai had this to say:
"That's a big blow, because you know, that's who I was coming in and expecting to play for. ..."
"It's kind of weird, because (Donovan) told me he wasn't going anywhere. But things happen, and I'm sure if he does take it it's the best thing he could do for his family."
There is the rub. It isn't wrong of Donovan to take a better job: it is wrong of him to mislead both the media and recruits. This development is especially dishertening in Lucas' case, as his prolonged recruiting process was a result of him trying to avoid this exact situation.
So now the question is thus: Can Florida hold together this recruiting class? This is not a simple question, as it depends greatly on who Florida brings in as their new coach, but it is indeed an extremely important question. With the loss of Noah, Humphrey, Horford, Green, and Brewer, the incoming freshman class is going to be relied upon to be the backbone of the 2007-2008 team and any defections could severely hamper any chance that the Gators have at making the NCAA tournament next year. The Gator's class has five players, so here is a quick look at each of their situations:
Nick Calathes: Calathes is the best prospect in the group, an athletic guard that can play both the 1 and the 2. He also happens to be the recruit most certain to stay, as he has had an oral committment with Florida since his sophmore year and is a Florida native.
Chandler Parsons: Parsons, a 6-8 small forward with a good shooting touch, will probably follow Calathes lead. Parsons is also an in state recruit, and it is very unlikely that he would jump ship.
Alex Tyus: Tyus is a power forward, more in the Noah mold than the Horford mold. He is from Ohio, and there is some speculation that he might reopen his recruiting. Tyus was also offered scholarships at Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Miami, Ohio State, and Washington.
Adam Allen: Allen is the least highly regarded recruit of the class, a shooting guard and a Florida native. He was qouted in a New York Times article as saying that he would likely stay with Florida since they were leaning towards hiring VCU coach and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant. Speaking of Grant, Allen said "He’s a great coach and I have a lot of respect for him". If Florida gets Grant, Allen stays.
Jai Lucas: Now here my friends, is where the plot thickens. Lucas would fill the Gator's need at point guard, and allow Calathes to play out on the wing. If Lucas were to leave, it would put Florida in a very bad point guard situation and also might influence Tyus to depart. If Lucas were to leave, it would seem that the obvious choice for his next destination would be Kentucky. Kentucky is in need of a point guard as well, and Lucas would join an extremely talented recruiting class featuring blue chip prospects Patrick Patterson and Alex Legion. Lucas' father has been quoted as saying that Jai will "see who the new coaches are and re-evaluate the situation".
So how is this going to pan out? Will it be a replay of the Kelvin Sampson situation when he departed Oklahoma? It seems to me that the dominoes all begin in one spot: Richmond, VA., and more specifically VCU's campus. If Anthony Grant signs on quickly then Florida will likely be able to hang on to at least four of their recruits if not all. (Lucas being the lone defection in that scenario) Now, there is a somewhat unsettling quote in the New York Times article:
“I am just so excited about what we were doing here,” Christina Grant said in a telephone interview. “To move, it just wouldn’t ... ” She paused. “I feel tight right now. We have so much to do here.”
So what if Grant did not take the job? That is the doomsday scenario for Gator fans, as they would then be facing a future where they could lose two to three of their recruits and be looking at the very real prospect of missing the NCAA tournament next season. So how will things play out? Nobody knows for certain, but is likely that the coaching situation, and as a result the recruit situation, will be resolved before the end of next week. Until then, the eyes of Gator nation will be on Richmond.