The Memphis Grizzlies' courtship of Billy Donovan intrigued the two-time national championship-winning coach enough to interview with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley recently, but Donovan has decided to stay at the University of Florida, multiple sources said.
For the conversations to continue, one source said, Donovan asked for complete control of the Grizzlies' basketball operation. With the retirement of general manager Jerry West, Heisley has been searching for a top executive and coach.
Nevertheless, the Memphis owner wasn't inclined to turn both his executive and coaching responsibilities over to a college coach with no pro experience.
"Billy was not 100 percent sure that he wanted it," a source close to Donovan said Saturday night, "but they called him, so he asked for the world and did not get it."
According to one Donovan associate, it was believed that the Grizzlies would've been willing to pay him $5 million a year to coach the team. Donovan has long been intrigued with the NBA, and the prospects of Memphis getting a chance to draft Ohio State's Greg Oden or Texas' Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft made the job more attractive to him.
Donovan returned to work with the Gators this week. He made recruiting visits to Patrick Patterson in West Virginia and Jai Lucas in Houston before leaving on a golf trip to Ireland on Friday with several close friends. He had also been canvassing contacts to replace a departed assistant coach on his staff.
When Donovan turned down Kentucky after the Final Four, he made it clear that he'll probably never leave Florida for another college job. However, the pros have long been a fascination for Donovan.
As one Donovan confidant said, "Billy will never make the mistakes that (his mentor) Rick (Pitino) did, and take a bad NBA job just for the money. He learned that lesson."
- Billy Donovan