Rumors point to Gillispie’s exit from Kentucky


Published: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:44 p.m.

Cyberspace is buzzing and the rumor mills are whirring. I have yet to see one of these rumor mills, by the way. What do they use for materials? And are they hiring?

It’s all they’re talking about in the Bluegrass State.

Billy Gillispie is almost certainly two-and-through in Lexington.

It was a bad marriage from the start (and Gillispie knows something about bad marriages because he uses his ex-wife as a punch line whenever he can). When your coach won’t sign his contract, berates the media and isn’t fan friendly, well, you can get away with it if you’re going to Final Fours.

But when you have the second-most losses in school history and break a 16-year streak of making the NCAA Tournament, your behavior matters a lot.

It probably will happen today and the rumors are flying among the UK faithful that the school will make another run at Billy Donovan. Two years ago, Donovan said he wasn’t interested. I learned that summer never to say never because I wrote Donovan wouldn’t leave for the NBA. It turned out I was right and wrong at the same time.

So if Kentucky comes calling, has anything changed?

Wildcat fans are convinced it has. I ran into a few of them in Tampa at the SEC Tournament and their rumor du jour was that Donovan was unhappy basketball wasn’t treated the same way as football. It’s not treated the same by the Gator Nation, but it certainly is by the administration.

Might the lack of fan support, especially in the NIT, have changed Donovan’s mind? I doubt it. He knows what he has here. He knows what Kentucky has to offer.

I think Kentucky will turn elsewhere. There may be a private, behind-the-scenes phone call from UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart, but if there is I think he’ll get the same answer.

But, again, I’m never saying never again.

GOING FORWARD: After the second-round loss to Connecticut in the women’s tournament, Amanda Butler now has to face life without Sha Brooks and Marshae Dotson, her two best players.

But the Florida coach is optimistic about next year.

“Those seniors set the standard for the program,” she said. “They raised the level of expectation. I don’t know that I’m ready to think about life without them.”

That level of expectation is Florida will now be expected to return to the tournament. With the SEC going from 14 to 16 games for the women next year, it’s going to be more difficult.

But Butler likes the group coming back and the players she has coming in.

“We’re going to have more quality depth,” she said. “I’m not sure we’ll have a starting five. It may change a lot.”

Joining the team next year will be a pair of 6-foot-2 forwards in Jennifer George and Lily Svete, and 5-11 guard Christal Caldwell. Florida also adds Jordan Jones, the transfer from South Carolina who sat out this year.

“They all have unbelievable work ethic,” she said.

Key to next season will be the development of 6-4 center Azania Stewart, who was behind all year after having a kidney removed.

“There are some big shoes to fill,” Stewart said.

With her ponytail and enthusiasm, she reminds the staff of a male player who made a huge jump from his freshman year to his sophomore season. If Stewart pulls a Joakim Noah, Florida could be something special next season.

NO DOME: Atlanta is going after the Florida-Georgia game every fourth year, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I think the Georgia fans realize that where the game is played has nothing to do with Florida’s dominance since 1990. Big boosters from south Georgia certainly don’t want the game moved and too many Georgia fans look at the game as a midseason bowl trip.

I used to be a big believer the game belonged on the campuses. But once I got over my desire to spend time in Athens every other year, I came to realize the game belongs in Jacksonville.

Always.

TEAM TROUBLE: When Terry Bowden got back into coaching, little did he know he was opening a Home for Wayward Boys.

The North Alabama coach is loading up on Division-I players who have had troubled pasts. His quarterback will be former Nebraska and N.C. State malcontent Harrison Beck and he also has taken former FSU receiver Preston Parker.

Bowden called me recently to inquire about Torrey Davis. Stay tuned.

THE ROAD TO 16: Incoming UF freshman Kenny Boynton is a McDonald’s All-American, which may be more important than you think.

Of the 65 teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament, 21 of them had at least one player who made the team in high school. Of the Sweet 16, 11 of them have one.

I’m just saying.

PAT-POURRI: Gainesville has never looked so lovely as it did when I stepped off the airplane after six days in Storrs, Conn. ... If any team other than UConn wins the women’s tournament there needs to be a Congressional investigation. ... My bracket still had 14 teams alive going into Thursday night, which means I’m as smart as Barack Obama. OK, in basketball I.Q. anyway. This year. ... In another sign of the tough economic times, Black Diamond is now offering limited memberships to the public. ... Is the World Baseball Classic over? ... Be safe.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com.

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