Two of the most high profile coaches in the business made headline-grabbing moves today when Gator Golden Boy Billy Donovan quickly spurned Kentucky, which was foaming at the mouth to lure him, to return to Florida, while Bob Huggins made his escape from Manhattan (Kansas that is) and grabbed the freshly minted vacancy at his hometown school, West Virginia. What I find interesting is my gut reactions to both these decisions.
The Donovan announcement came earlier in the day, and to be honest, I would have been surprised if he had defected to the Gators' SEC rival. He seems to have a great life going in Gainesville, and his professional success has reached a stratosphere inhabited only by coaches like Krzyzewski and Wooden, as coaches who have led repeat national champions. When I read the news that he was staying, I thought to myself, "What a classy move. Now he has the chance to build a Hall of Fame career at one school, Florida. And he didn't just go for the supposedly more glamorous position at Kentucky just because the opportunity presented itself."
Meanwhile, when I found out later in the day that Bob Huggins, a coach who has more than a couple stains on his reputation, was bolting Kansas State for West Virginia, my thought process when something like this: "What a bum. He's leaving Kansas State high and dry after just one year. He just dashed the hopes of an entire university. Bush league move."
And there you have exhibits A and B of the typical sports fan's construction of sports as theater. For whatever reason, you need to create a hero and a villain, as if this was all just a grand stage with figures like Donovan and Huggins playing the opposing leads. But is that really fair? It probably isn't. What if Donovan decided he wanted to go to Kentucky because he wanted a new challenge? (Because let's face it, he was going to get paid a bundle no matter what his decision was, so I don't buy the argument that money would have been the deciding factor for him to leave Florida.) Don't people employed in everyday jobs do that all the time?
And what about Huggins? Generally speaking, he's a lot less likable than Donovan seems to be, but maybe we shouldn't decry his choice to leave so quickly. After all, West Virginia is his hometown school, and this opportunity probably would not have come around again if he didn't take it now. Don't important executives leave big corporations with regularity too? But the corporations usually find another talented person to take his or her spot and business carries on.
In an ideal world, everyone would love their jobs and serve out the balance of their contract happily, but that's not the reality of the matter, least of all in sports. All I'm saying is that we shouldn't let our own constructed - and sometimes, distorted - conceptions of what should and shouldn't be in sports (and I'm as guilty of this as anyone) lead us as fans into unfairly scrutinizing a decision when we don't have all the facts about the situation.