GAINESVILLE, FLA. Florida coach Billy Donovan wanted to stay. His star players knew it was time to go.
Donovan spurned a chance to return to Kentucky and take over the tradition-rich program, saying Thursday he hopes to build the same in Gainesville.
He'll have to do it without Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. The four juniors will enter the NBA Draft, saying they have accomplished all they could at Florida.
"I'm happy and I'm sad," Donovan said. "Happy because I've never seen a group of kids grow the way these guys have grown, and sad that I'm not going to have a chance to coach them anymore. ... I do not expect any of them back here next year. Their commitment, their focus, is trying to further their careers in the game of basketball.
"When they put their minds to something they're usually very, very successful at doing it."
Donovan and the foursome led the Gators to consecutive national championships, capping the coach's 11 years and setting the foundation for a program he hopes will someday be mentioned with the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and UCLA.