Florida coach Billy Donovan is staying. His star players are leaving.
Donovan spurned a chance to return to Kentucky and take over the tradition-rich program, saying yesterday he hopes to build the same in Gainesville.
He'll have to do it without Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, and Joakim Noah. The four juniors will enter the NBA draft.
Donovan and the foursome led the Gators to consecutive national championships, capping the coach's 11 years and setting the foundation for a program he hopes will someday be mentioned with the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, and UCLA.
Donovan opened a news conference confirming the four players were headed to the NBA.
"They made a decision to forgo their senior years and enter the draft," Donovan said, looking over to the players sitting to his left. "I do not expect any of them back here next year."
The Gators became the first team to win back-to-back titles since Duke in 1992. But following Monday night's 84-75 victory against Ohio State, Donovan's future had become the biggest question mark surrounding Florida.
Donovan acknowledged interest in the Kentucky job this week, saying he had a lot of admiration for the Wildcats. But he also said he intended to stay in Gainesville.
Kentucky received permission to talk to Donovan about its coaching vacancy Wednesday. The coach and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart spoke early yesterday morning. Donovan then met with Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and agreed to stay put.
Donovan was the top choice to replace Tubby Smith, who left Kentucky last month to take the head job at Minnesota. Donovan was an assistant at Kentucky for five years beginning in 1989.
Now Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie is seen as the leading candidate to succeed Smith.
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne granted Kentucky permission to contact Gillispie about the opening last night.
Gillispie, who took the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament's Round of 16 this year for the first time since 1980, agreed in principle to a contract last week that will pay him $1.75 million annually. Texas A&M spokesman Colin Killian said he's not sure if Gillispie has signed the new deal.
In addition to Gillispie, names from all over the college basketball landscape have been bandied about, including Texas coach Rick Barnes, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, and former UMass and current Memphis coach John Calipari.