Florida head coach Billy Donovan directs his players against Kentucky on Saturday, March 7, 2015, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won, 67-50. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)
Photo: Mark Cornelison/TNS
Photo: Mark Cornelison/TNS

Does Billy Donovan regret leaving Florida for Thundering disappointment?

One of my close friends who is an avid Florida Gators fan stated emphatically the other day that legendary former Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan is now undeniably sorry he left college basketball for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.

I just shook my head and told my Orange and Blue-blinded buddy that his school pride is obviously interfering with normal brain activity.

Don't get me wrong, I understand how college fans often over-inflate the value of their coaching positions and I understand that Florida fans will always love Donovan and he will always love Florida. When the Gators, under Donovan successor Mike White, were making a run to the NCAA's Elite 8 two seasons ago, nobody was rooting harder for Florida than Billy D.

But if you ask me, Donovan, even though his disappointing Thunder are on the verge of being ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the surprising Utah Jazz, has absolutely no regrets about leaving Florida for an NBA job. Especially the Oklahoma City job, which in its original form (when Kevin Durant was still on the team) was one of the elite jobs in the NBA.

Granted, Donovan, who won two national titles and played for another during his 19 remarkable seasons in Gainesville, could have had job security for life at Florida. He could have gone down as not only the greatest college basketball coach in Florida history, but the greatest college basketball coach in State of Florida history.

Well, guess what? Donovan, who nearly doubled his college salary when he took the $6 million-a-year Thunder job, is still going to have job security for life and is still going to go down as the greatest college basketball coach in Florida and state history.

I don't think anybody is blaming Donovan for what has happened to the Thunder since he arrived. When he took the job, he thought he was going to be coaching Durant and Russell Westbrook for years to come. Let's not forget, in his first season with Durant and Westbrook both on the team in 2015-16, Donovan took the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to the record-breaking Warriors.

That was the year the Warriors set an NBA record with 73 wins and the Thunder actually held a 3-1 lead in the conference finals before Golden State came storming back and rallied from behind in Game 7 to oust OKC. The Thunder, of course, haven't been the same since. In the offseason after Donovan's first year on the job, Durant bolted OKC to gravy train championships in Golden State.

Even if Donovan ends up eventually getting fired as most NBA coaches do, he can then parachute back into college basketball and get a job better than the one he left behind at Florida. He would become one of the most sought coaching free agents in college hoops history and would be a prime candidate for just about any big-time job that came open.

If Roy Williams retires at North Carolina or Mike Krzyzewski retires at Duke, Donovan immediately would and should become the No. 1 candidate.

Not only that, but I believe Donovan would get another opportunity to coach in the NBA, even if he parts ways with Oklahoma City.

Who knows, maybe the Orlando Magic can re-hire him for another one-day coaching stint before he makes his triumphant return to college basketball.

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