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Calathes headed for Greece, is UF a program in turmoil?

Calathes Greece By MIKE McCALL

Touché, Nick Calathes.

Everyone was awaiting the UF guard’s decision between an NBA career and another year with the Gators, but he had another plan.

On Saturday, several news outlets reported that Calathes has signed with Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos, which has won two of the last three Euroleague titles.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the contract would be worth $1.1 million per year and include a home, car and tax credits, making the total package comparable to what a late lottery pick in the NBA Draft could expect to be paid.

It’s too early to tell how well this decision will work out in the long term for Calathes, but in the short term, I love it.

He was predicted by many to be drafted late in the first round, but it’s not hard to imagine him slipping into the second. I’m sure Calathes doesn’t agree with me, but I didn’t see him having a huge career in the NBA.

Playing in Greece, where he has dual citizenship, Calathes will be pulling down a great salary and increasing his chances of making the Greek National Team, something he tried to do last summer.

He’ll be closer to his brother, Pat, who also plays in Greece, and he’s likely to become something of a celebrity while living in Athens.

Most importantly, he should have more early success than he would on our side of the pond.

Now, it probably won’t be easy for Calathes to come back to the NBA after a few years overseas. According to reports, Panathinaikos wants Calathes to officially withdraw from the NBA Draft, but his agent may try to keep his name in the hat.

The one thing he needs to avoid is giving pro teams the impression that he’s running from the challenge of the NBA. That could be tough to overcome.

I don’t know what Nick’s life goals are, but if he just wants to play the sport he loves, win games and make a bunch of money doing it, he made a great decision.

European basketball is on the rise, and Calathes is the latest American import to hit the scene. The league can only get better from here, and there’s nothing but room for Calathes to grow.

On the flip side, there is a clear loser in the situation: UF. More specifically, Billy Donovan.

Things haven’t gone so well since the back-to-back national titles. The Gators missed the tournament two years in a row, lost Marreese Speights to the NBA and Jai Lucas to a transfer.

Alex Tyus threatened to transfer a few weeks ago, Allan Chaney went through with it, recruits have withdrawn verbal commitments, and now the team’s best player is skipping off to Europe.

UF is looking more and more like a program in disarray.

The message I’m getting from all this is that these players aren’t happy under Donovan. Many of them came here with the notion that titles would keep raining down on the O’Dome, but as the struggles have hit, Donovan and his players don’t seem to be connecting that well.

Calathes was always viewed as Donovan’s Golden Boy, but it’s obvious that wasn’t true. Calathes went against his coach’s wishes by playing in Greece last summer, and now he is basically saying the Gators are pretty far down his list of priorities.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t reflect well on the status of the program.

If this string of events happened to a coach who wasn’t coming off an incredible few seasons, there would be talk of job security. Billy D doesn’t (at least he shouldn’t) have to worry about that now, but athletics director Jeremy Foley needs to make it clear that this can’t keep up.

Foley needs to back Donovan in public but tell him to regain control of the team. If he can’t do that in the next three years and the Gators keep struggling on the court, then it might be time for some re-evaluating.


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