Is Billy D losing control or taking control?

Published: Friday, April 17, 2009 at 1:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 at 1:56 p.m.

There is a lot of grumbling in the Gator Nation and it has nothing to do with injured lineman, Tim Tebow under center or the price of season tickets.

Instead, the e-mails have been rolling in about the state of the basketball program. Judging by the NIT attendance, I didn't think you cared. But obviously you do.

The news that Alex Tyus is leaving in the wake of Allan Chaney's departure and the almost-certain jump by Nick Calathes to the next level (and by next level I mean Panathinaikos in the Greek League), the question has to be asked.

Is Billy Donovan losing control of his program?

Or is he taking control?

Players leaving the Florida program is nothing new. It has been a constant in Donovan's tenure. I made the point in March that Walter Hodge is only the 12th Donovan signee to play four years at Florida. That's a low number, but fans have taken the approach that it's just the way it is in college basketball and Donovan has had so much success he has managed to overcome the exodus.

But when you follow up back-to-back national titles with back-to-back NITs and players start to leave, eyebrows and voices are raised.

Last summer I had a conversation with Florida's best basketball coach ever (and let us not forget that), and he said he felt like after the Oh-Fours left he was building a program from scratch. So is he starting all over again now with what appears to be two starters and a backup bolting?

There is no question that like a lot of coaches Donovan isn't for every player. He can be tough to play for if your skin is not thick. He makes it a habit to criticize players to the media when they under-perform.

He has a vision for what a player should become and how he fits in and when that player doesn't. When it's a square peg into a round hole, Donovan tends to part ways with that player. There is also the new culture of sports, the culture I call Backup Quarterback Syndrome. Backup quarterbacks with overbearing fathers have set the tone for taking their ball and going somewhere else these days and it has become just as big a problem in basketball.

Jai Lucas isn't going to start at the point? Bye.

Athletes in today's sports world almost always over-value themselves. They are pampered so much in high school that when they get to college and the coach who was sweet-talking them in the recruiting process starts screaming at them to PLAY SOME DEFENSE OR YOU'RE GOING TO BE SITTING NEXT TO ME they sulk and pout.

Which brings us back to the question so many of you have asked me what in the heck is going on with the basketball program?

I say, be patient.

There are a lot of things that have gone wrong the last two years. Florida basketball fans are not entitled to what happened in 2006 and '07 any more than Red Sox fans are now entitled to the World Series every year because of recent success. Donovan deserves a pass a long pass for what he has done at UF. And he's out there trying to fix the problem he created with some recruiting mistakes.

Now, there are those of you who believe paying a coach more than $3 million a year entitles the university to a Final Four every other year. You should know better. Donovan is making what he is because of what he has done, not because of what he will do. He is making that money because that was his market value when the NBA came calling. He is making that money because Florida can pay it without blinking.

This isn't about how much he's making. It's about getting this thing straightened out.

Be patient. He's out there busting his hump trying to bring you a better team than what he has produced the last two years.

Remember a few weeks ago how you felt when the bogus story broke that Billy was going to Kentucky. Don't let go of that feeling. Florida is lucky to have Donovan. And nobody knows better than he does that he needs to crank it up.

Donovan's 14th season will be a very important one for him and this program. Momentum has come to a crawl. The league has been toughened by the new coaching hires.

Let's see what Donovan does. The Gator Nation is watching. At least until football season starts.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or at

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