Great minds think alike ... or do they?..."/>
Great minds think alike ... or do they?..."/>

Pitino/Nets situation almost deja vu of Donovan/Magic


by Paul Jordan

Great minds think alike … or do they? Yesterday’s story or “non story” of Rick Pitino’s interest in the New Jersey Nets brought back a deja-vu feel to Orlando Magic sports fans.

It was just over two years ago when the stunning news came that Billy Donovan, head coach of the two time defending national champion Gators was leaving Gainesville and taking the reigns of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. While it was a shock to most, the wheels were in place for a little while.

While the Magic had a coach, Brian Hill, Donovan had “his people” contact Orlando about the possibility of Donovan becoming coach. The details of the hiring were worked out and Brian Hill was eventually ousted as head coach of the Magic to be replaced by Donovan. Donovan came to Orlando and was announced as the head coach of the Magic but then after clearing things with his wife, had a change of heart. After a couple of days of public whining and crying about how a grown man should not have to stand by a contract he signed, the Magic let him out of his contract and allowed him to go back to Gainesville and his 10,000 fans a night and his rightful place in Urban Meyer’s shadow.

I only bring it up, because the news was leaked yesterday, that Donovan’s “mentor” the one Rick Pitino, had undergone the same kind of back channel shenanigans in an attempt to land the job as the head coach of the New Jersey Nets. From several accounts, Pitino has been sending “his people” to talk about the Net’s job and the possibility of bolting after this season. The New Jersey owner was not interested in a philandering coach whose glory days were 13 years behind him and offered a firm “Nyet”.

Pitino took to his favorite mouthpiece, Pat Forde, and denied any knowledge of the situation. Unfortunately, Rick’s credibility level is at an all time low with the whole similar thing happening last year with the Sacramento Kings and then some dalliance on the floor of an Italian restaurant. Interestingly enough, his “mini me”, Donovan, went through a similar era of deniability this spring when several sources confirmed he was going to be the next coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. Being in Orlando and having some friends in the local media, I have had had several say that Donovan was really only a signature away from “UK Coach Donovan” becoming a reality. Another source in the Bluegrass confirmed this recently. But then, Mrs Donovan happened, and Billy denied any interest at all in the UK job, just like his mentor did New Jersey.

To be honest, I think the BBN owes a serious depth of gratitude to Donovan’s wife. After his flirtation with UK in 2007 and the Magic thing, I was over him and was not that happy when this news broke this time. I am sure Net fans, as desperate as they are, felt the same way when it was rumored Ricky P was headed their way.

Yet, coaches like Calipari get the media scorn and abuse for practically everything they do while Donovan and Pitino (still to some point) are revered and adored by the nation’s writers. It makes no sense. Yet, for fans, we do get some satisfaction. As the great Earl Hickey used to remind us weekly, karma is definitely a bitch. Donovan and his Gators are starting to take on the air of a three time NIT team wih a 17-7 record and possible losses to Xavier, Mississippi, Tennessee, Vandy, and Kentucky looming. Even if UF beats Xavier, it is hard not to see them finishing the season 1-3.

As for Pitino? He has now very much pissed off the Cardinal fanbase that stood by him 110% during the whole Karen Sypher affair and has rewarded their loyalty by going from #1 in the country last year to a 15-9 record. And it appears that his team has given up on him as well as they were drilled 74-55 last night by the 13-10 St Johns Red Storm. And with two games left against Syracuse, and also Georgetown, UConn, and Marquette on the schedule, you wonder if even the NIT will take the Cards.

I could go on, but I will just paraphrase Earl Hickey and say that karma is a funny thing. Enjoy your season, boys.

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