This year's big college-to-NBA coaching possibilities have centered on John Calipari and then, much more seriously, Tom Izzo. Calipari's connection to the Chicago Bulls (or anywhere LeBron James was going) was always just a rumor, while Izzo's potential move to the Cleveland Cavaliers was something the Michigan State coach agonized over for nearly two weeks.
In the end, Izzo's reticence recalled that of Billy Donovan, the Florida Gators coach who took the Orlando job, went south from Gainesville, Fla., for a day, and then called a legendary audible, declaring he no longer wanted to coach the Magic and instead wanted to return to the head position at Florida. In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Donovan admitted that he's since questioned his decision more than once:
"I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't replay the decision in my mind a few times," Donovan said Thursday.
The irony is that, much like Izzo's decision, Donovan's return to Florida was seen as the smart move. The coach had just won two NCAA titles, and most expected Donovan to enjoy his coach-for-life status for years to come. He would receive no such comfort in Orlando. Why take the risk?
But things didn't quite go that way. The Gators failed to return to the NCAA tournament two years in a row as a host of highly recruited players underperformed in Donovan's system. The 2009-10 Gators finally got the coach back into the dance, losing in the first round, and most expect Donovan's 2010-11 squad to hover near the top 10 for much of the season. It's not an abysmal record. But when compared to the Magic's success over the past three years -- rising to one of the best teams in the NBA with the most dominating young center of his generation -- you could see why Donovan has probably spent more than a few nights wondering if he screwed this whole thing up.
It's hard to see Izzo having the same worries. And for that matter, Donovan seems genuinely happy with his decision. But there's no question the three years since Donovan's big non-move have shown that you can't predict the future, even when it looks obvious.