Rumblings in the Bluegrass State have Billy Gillispie out as Kentucky basketball coach as soon as Friday, with Florida coach Billy Donovan already agreeing in principle to become his hand-picked successor.
A private plane was tracked from going to Gainesville to Montgomery Airport in Mount Sterling, Ky. (a small airport outside of Lexington) to South Bend, Ind., (where Kentucky played Notre Dame) on Wednesday. Of course, that plane could have been carrying equine supplies. Or it could have been carrying Florida coach Billy Donovan and Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.
Donovan just completed the second year of a six year extension he signed last October which pays him an average of $3.5 million annually. According to terms of the contract, there is a one-month window (from March 1 to April 1) in which either side could walk away without significant financial recourse. Donovan would need to provide written notification before April 1 to leave. Otherwise, he would have to pay a $500,000 buyout. Donovan would also pass up a $400,000 loyalty bonus.
Another factor in regards to Florida giving Kentucky permission to speak with Donovan could hinge on the availability of ex-UF assistant and current Virginia Commonwealth coach Anthony Grant. Grant is in deep discussions with Alabama in regards to the head coaching position there. A reliable source has relayed that that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley wants assurances that Grant would be available if Donovan was to leave. It makes sense. Foley said after the fact that Grant was his first and only choice when Donovan left briefly for the Orlando Magic less than two years ago.
Some other factors:
— Donovan’s eldest son, Billy, is in his junior year at St. Francis High in Gainesville. Would Donovan want to uproot his family before his son’s senior year?
— How would Donovan feel about playing/recruiting against his mentor, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, every year? A reliable source has told me that Pitino is trying to talk Donovan out of the move.
— A reliable athletic department source told me Thursday afternoon that the story at this point has been driven by “media speculation” and that Donovan is currently in the state of Florida.