Friday, June 1, 2007


Billy? BILLY? What are you doing?

We talked about this. You were going to stay at Florida, win a dozen SEC Titles, win a couple more National Championships, get some roads and buildings named for you in Gainesville. You had everything. You had the recruiting train rolling. You had Florida in position to permanently supplant Kentucky as THE basketball program in the SEC. With back-to-back titles, you hardly even had to work for it anymore. Success was just going to continue breeding additional success. Your life was going to be the stuff of legend. You were going to be a modern Adolph Rupp. The Bear Bryant of basketball.

Now you're the new Rick Pitino. You're the Steve Spurrier of basketball. You're going to take your absurd college credentials and go to the NBA, which is an entirely different game, requiring entirely different coaching skills. You're leaving the kids of college and getting the egomaniacal adults of the NBA. You're leaving the college world where recruiting advantages and past success meant you were going to have more talented teams than most of your opponents probably for the rest of your career, and you're going to the NBA where the salary cap means that most teams have similar talent levels, and talent is added by a soulless draft. You're leaving a world where NCAA regulations limit practice times and effectively limit how complex the tactics you use can be, and you're entering a world where, by your own admission, the coaching is incredibly sophisticated and all the coaches are extremely intelligent.

And you're taking over the Orlando Magic, a below-.500 team. Granted, they have a good young nucleus in Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic.

In general, I think the "successful college coach going to the pros" is rarely a good idea. There have been a lot of high profile failures at this story. Rick Pitino, Steve Spurrier, and Nick Saban. There are others too. I can't think of a single success story of a coach going from college to the pros in any sport. It just doesn't happen. The games are too different, and the qualities that make a coach successful in college don't really translate to the pros. I honestly don't know why so many coaches still try it.

All three of the listed coaches, Pitino, Spurrier, and Saban, were heading to legendary status at their schools, but threw it away for a chance to coach in the pros. All three quickly fell behind the curve and never recovered, and are now back in the college game. Donovan was heading to those lofty heights too, and I think he'll be back in college in 5 years as well.


uberschuck said...

Jimmy Johnson...and that was a long time ago.

Richard Pittman said...

Yeah, Jimmy Johnson had a great deal of success, but that was quite a while ago. And that's about it. You can also have the examples of Lou Holtz and PJ Carlesimo.