Kruger expects Donovan to make right decision


Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 2:45 a.m.

ATLANTA — The future of Gator coach Billy Donovan has been the center of speculation all week, at times overshadowing the Final Four.

The man Donovan replaced at UF, current UNLV coach Lon Kruger, said he doesn't think the reports that Kentucky will offer the Gator coach its job will affect Donovan or his players this weekend.

"Not a chance," said Kruger, who led UF to its first Final Four, in 1994. "They always play with such determination and togetherness. They're going to focus only on (semifinal opponent) UCLA."

Kruger, who led the Runnin' Rebels to this year's Sweet 16, didn't want to speculate on which direction Donovan might go.

"Billy has made some great decisions (in the past) and I'm sure he'll make another one," Kruger said.

When asked if he was rooting for the Gators, Kruger said "Absolutely. What a great season they've had. They have such a tremendous team and are so much fun to watch."

Football contingent

Gator football coach Urban Meyer, his son Nate, co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales flew into Atlanta from Gainesville late Saturday afternoon to watch the Final Four games.

Proud Papa

One person hard to miss at the Georgia Dome was former NBA and Georgetown center Patrick Ewing.

His son, Patrick Jr., is a Hoya forward now playing for John Thompson III, the son of Ewing's coach at Georgetown.

"It's great to see my son get this experience," said Ewing, who led the Hoyas to their only NCAA title (in 1984). "He has a great relationship with his coach, just like I did with mine.

"These are memories I know he'll cherish, win or lose. Let's hope it's a win, though."

Minority opinions

There were a few Kentucky fans in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, and most said they would be excited to see Donovan coach the Wildcats.

But not Rocky Wiggins of Atlanta.

"I think Billy Donovan is a great coach and has done a great job at Florida, but he has no real interest in Kentucky," said Wiggins, conspicuous in his bright blue Kentucky sweatshirt. "I see no reason why a coach who has had that much success at a school like Florida would want to come to Kentucky. It doesn't make sense to me.

"I'd like us to hire a coach who really wants to be at Kentucky more than anything."

Wiggins added he didn't have an opinion on who UK should hire.

Stud-Lanta

According to NBAdraft.net, this Final Four features numerous future NBA players, including six projected to go in this year's top-15 picks.

The Web site has Ohio State freshman center Greg Oden going first overall to Memphis, Florida junior power forward Al Horford going fourth to Milwaukee, Georgetown junior small forward Jeff Green going sixth to Seattle, Florida junior power forward Joakim Noah going seventh to Philadelphia, Georgetown junior center Roy Hibbert going eighth to Portland and Florida junior small forward Corey Brewer going 14th to Golden State.

Additionally, UCLA junior shooting guard Arron Afflalo is projected to go 22nd to Charlotte and Ohio State senior shooting guard Ron Lewis is listed as Chicago's second-round selection, 48th overall.

Selection order will be determined by the draft lottery and teams' records at the end of the NBA season.

NBAdraft.net goes even further, projecting the 2008 picks.

That list includes UCLA point guard Darren Collison (sixth overall), Georgetown forward DaJuan Summers (11th), Ohio State point guard Mike Conley (12th), UCLA forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (20th), UCLA small forward/shooting guard Josh Shipp (28th), Florida point guard Taurean Green (second round, 37th overall), UCLA power forward Lorenzo Mata (55th) and Ohio State power forward Othello Hunter (57th).

Free throws

Among the celebrities expected to be in attendance Saturday were Atlanta Braves' third baseman Chipper Jones, a Gator fan. Jones was the MLB draft's No. 1 overall pick out of Jacksonville Bolles in 1990. ... “Saturday Night Live’s” Will Forte was in town to root on UCLA. ... Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was in the lower vending area of the Georgia Dome taking pictures with Buckeyes supporters prior to the game. He even hugged a Gator fan. Tressel held spring practice Saturday morning before flying to Atlanta in the afternoon. He was set to go back to Columbus after the game and was planning to return Monday night. ... There is more good news on the way for Donovan and his family. His son, Billy, a freshman at St. Francis, will be listed as an honorable mention all-state guard in Class 1A when the teams are released Monday.

Contact John Patton at 374-5074 or

pattonj@gvillesun.com.

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