« No. 9 Florida bounces back, crushes No. 7 Mississippi in SEC Tourney | Main | Why is everyone hating on the Florida Gators? »

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.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

What I'm trying to figure out is this...why is it such a shocker to everyone that players with talent would leave a program that is rebuilding after being WIPED CLEAN by their starting SIX departing for the NBA and the 7th best player on the team leaving a year later?

Some of these guys did not get what they signed up for, so they are taking advantages of other avenues. Lucas, for example, was not going to be used the way he thought he would, so he left. I actually think that was a good move for both parties. Tyus, which you fail to report, had a misunderstanding with Donovan, which was easily worked out, apparently.

Why didn't this story get written when Calathes declared for the NBA draft? The fact that he's going to play pro in Greece says nothing more negative to the UF program than him leaving for the NBA did. He would rather play pro and make money than play college ball for a team that may just crack the tournament next year.

AND BESIDES, Calathes has, let's be honest, done nothing at Florida. Was he the most talented guy on the court? Sure. But if you look at what was around him, he had to be the one putting up points - someone has to. And in big games, at times when the team needed him the most, he faded. We didn't win big games, we lost games we should have won in the final minutes, etc. And a lot of that was from him missing shots and not being a true leader on the court.

This couldn't bother me any less. The program moves on with Boynton and, hopefully, Coach Pitino brings a more solid recruiting structure in assistance of Donovan.

Oh, and it is also important to note, that after losing our starting six, we also lost our best asst. coach and have lost two more since. That's just as tough as losing players.

To add one more thing - we weren't going to beat Kentucky next year anyway - so this rebuilding is necessary. Maybe Calathes was part of the problem rather than the only part of what was thought to be the solution???

I'd like to hear from some other commenters, but I'd have to assume you're in the minority Adam.
It's not that often that the face of a program does something like this.
Because Calathes is one of the first and most high-profile college players to do this, it's going to draw some attention, and the message people will get from this is: Calathes wasn't going to go as high as he wanted in the NBA Draft, and rather than go back where his friends are and play for a bigtime coach for another year, he looked for Door Number 3.
As for the Tyus thing, a misunderstanding? You really believe some small misunderstanding led Alex Tyus to make such a huge decision?
If he had a misunderstanding and decided to leave, he didn't talk it over with Donovan first?
If that's the case, at the very least it says there's a big problem with communication here.
Come on man, the point is that things are certainly not looking up right now, and Speights, Lucas, Tyus and Calathes are all parts of that.
Those are all good players, and if your program is in decent shape, you don't lose them unexpectedly.

See ya, Nick. I am all for starting from scratch. Billy D is still one of the top coaches in college hoops. He has been in this situation before (remember the Walsh/Roberson years?). He brought us out from the ashes of underachievement before and he will do it again.

And remember, he has done all of this at a FOOTBALL school where the gridiron is king and always will be. I laud him now more than ever. He will get it done.

Calathes obviously didn't want to stay in college if he could make $ and get minutes going to Greece. that's a nice hunk of change to turn down RIGHT NOW. Not in a few months, next year, but immediately. I can't blame the guy if that's what he wants to do.

Everyone needs to rememebr this sport as well as the various players thta cam ethrough here before the '04s. That was a special, special group of roomates/kids/friends, a fortuitous confluence of circumstances which will likely never happen again. Vernon Maxwell. Donnell Harvey. Mike Miller. Roberson. Walsh. Speights. That's the norm, and What Calathes is doing now is really no different than what Miller did years ago.

Thanks for coimng to UF and playing hard all the time. Best of luck to you.

the PG spot is now officially a huge concern. I know Florida was never really in it for Wall, but the Bledsoe "defection" is bothersome, even for die hard Gators. Tyus i think is more phased by the development of Macklin, a guy who is built like a center but is more a natural PF, from what I've seen/heard.

Hope Kenny B is as good as advertised.

Mike - apparently I'm not in the minority. You call him the "face of the program" but, let's be honest, this program had no face. The only face of our program is Billy D.

And you say "does something like this." Does something like what? Turn pro? That happens QUITE OFTEN. Do you mean "turn pro to Europe?" That may be less common, but we're just splitting hairs at this point. Calathes was never a Florida Gator in the sense that guys like Jo and Big Al were. He thought he'd have a nice ride with Billy D. and Speights, compete for a title right away. Once Speights left and he didn't get that, he wanted to bail.

So what do I say? GOOD RIDDANCE.

"Go back to where his friends are"...that's some assumption right there. I suspect, without knowing anything, that these guys weren't big fans of Nick. You could see it from the body language on the court. This guy was supposed to be a leader...but no one followed him. I don't think Greece was "door number 3" in the least.

Now onto Tyus...I like how upset you get when someone disagrees with you. What huge decision did Tyus make? To overreact and then return to UF playing the 4 like he was going to all along? Tyus said himself (if you read his quotes) he was worried he was going to be playing the 5 and he really wanted to play the 3. Billy said he always had him at the 4 and would help him open his game up. Bottom line...Tyus sucks...and he wasn't going to get another situation where he would play more than at UF. If Tyus staying or leaving, to you, is an indication of this program, that's just ridiculous.

I agree, things are not looking up. But if you think guys like Tyus, Calathes and Lucas are going to phase me, you really need to wake up, Mike. These guys are GARBAGE players. They were guys that committed to this team because this was their best option...we lost a lot of top recruits because everyone knew we had the whole team coming back in 2007.

As for Speights, you're going to blame that on Billy? He was drafted in the top half of the first round!!! I would leave too!

The REAL concern for this team is Kentucky. We had a nice run taking them down year after year. But now? We're going to get DOMINATED until we figure out a way to start recruiting again. Pitino will help with that, but UK has probably the best recruiter in the country. They are going to get what they paid for and that includes a title...maybe even as soon as this year.

Adam S,

I would not let comments like Mike's upset you.

Billy Donovan is one of the most respected coaches in college basketball. He is still one of the best. A lot of Gator haters don't want to accept the truth. When Speights left for the NBA, Florida was left with no center and weak up front. Had Speights returned last year, I am sure the Gators would have been one of the favorites to win the SEC and to play in the NCAA tournament.

Calathes, although a very good player, always struck me as a flashy player who made great plays at times but came short at crucial moments by either missing free throws or making bad decisions. He is leaving for Greece and that is okay.

The Gators under Billy Donovan will be once again a great basketball team.

By the way Mike, how many schools would love to have a two-time National Championship coach running their programs? I will say 99.5%

Hey Mike Mike,
Adam S.' first post does represent what most committed Gators feel about the program. Even in Adam's second post (where I think he gets a little harsh) its hard not to agree. Yet I think I'd replace GARBAGE with NOT COMMITTED to the program. UFGator1972 also presents some excellent insight.

Mike your conclusion is "players aren't happy under Donovan" when it came to Jai Lucas. Maybe Lucas wasn't happy under Calathes who in effect controlled the team. And his lack of leadership and probably contributed to the teams mediocrity. One thing I do recall is when the rumor came out that BD was going to UK, Calathes was interviewed by a local TV station and he said he'd have to consider UK. I remember thinking to myself this is the kid they are going to build the program around?

Someone also told me that Calathes was afraid of Boynton's presence on the team and Walker's growing role intersecting with Calathes' control of the stat sheet.

As Jo's article a few weeks ago put it, Calathes again hijacked the team because his timing prevented it from getting a replacement PG. But it was always all about Nick the individual and not about team.

Lastly Kentucky will be good this year. But they have alot of 1 and dones. Billy just need to build slowly. UK the way its built now will have high turnover. Its hard to be that good year after year.

I do think going to Greece for $2 million was a much better option for Nick than getting exposed in the NBA.

This proves once again that the writer is not a Gator. I don't like players leaving early even if this one is for the best. I want players who want to be Gators, not folks preparing just for the pros. If you don't want to be in school go pro from high school (if you are good enough). Just watch Nick disapear into the foreign bball leagues not to be heard from (much) again.

1972- Oh, his comments didn't upset me. I was just expanding on my opinions and disagreeing with his.

Your second paragraph about Speights leaving is dead-on. As is your third paragraph about Calathes.

ko classic, great posts, thanks for the support.

Vulcan, he certainly isn't, and that's OK, he's a newspaper writer/beat writer/blog reporter, not a "fan." And that's how it should be, unbiased.

BUT...that shows the difference of people like us who follow the team extremely closely over a long period of time and those that don't.

Billy D.'s players praise him. Not just the oh-fours who won two titles. Since he began here, he has produced NBA talent, been to numerous final fours and lost that finals to Mich. St. in addition to the ones he won. The year before we won two titles, he won the SEC Championship with David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson.

So now a recruiting hiccup where he got a few of the wrong guys (probably BECAUSE they were rated so high) combined with his SEVEN best players leaving in two years (six in the first, one in the second) and a few transfers means his players don't like him? Puh-lease.

"Calathes, although a very good player, always struck me as a flashy player who made great plays at times but came short at crucial moments by either missing free throws or making bad decisions. He is leaving for Greece and that is okay." - UFGator1972

Well said '72. I would add that Nick seemed to be more about himself than about the team. BD benching him late in the season spoke volumes about him.

Here's what I don't understand about this:
BILLY recruited these kids.
BILLY coached them.
BILLY obviously didn't connect with them well enough, they don't seem happy, and they're not winning.

Whether you think Calathes is good or not (he is good) or whether you think Tyus sucks (he doesn't), these are the players Billy brought in.
So you blame the kids for not being committed and sucking, but Billy is above the fray. It's not his fault?
He's the coach! THIS IS HIS JOB.
So if all these guys are GARBAGE, what does it say about Billy that they are the best he could get after winning back-to-back titles?

Ugh, it is so frustrating arguing with someone who doesn't bother to read full arguments.

Billy very well may have recruited and coached these kids...but they weren't his top options. His top options went to other programs because they weren't going to play at Florida. The fact that the Oh-Fours stayed after the 06 title was great because we got another title in 07, but we also lost out on two swings of recruiting because of it.

Billy recruited these kids thinking that other people, like Speights for example, were going to be around to fill in the holes. Mr. Basketball NJ should be a pretty damn good player, don't you think? Turns out Werner sucks. EVERY COACH misses on recruits. Billy missed on Werner.

Tyus doesn't suck? I've never seen someone with his size have a complete inability to hit a turnaround jumper, post up someone smaller than him, make a hook shot or a successful mid-range jumper. He just can't do it.

As far as Billy "connecting" with kids...explain to me again how that is his fault. Do you think he did a 180 in how he coached for a decade with this group of kids? They probably didn't like that he had to kick them in the arse after two seasons ago where they faltered down the stretch. "Oh, coach is too tough on me, he demands too much and I can't deliver."

As for Calathes, he is a good player. But he's not a STAR like everyone (including yourself) makes him out to be. He falters down the stretch, is NOT a leader and does not improve the confidence in his teammates. Not to mention, he's not "clutch" which is an arbitrary phrase, but true nonetheless.

Him spurning UF for the pros (whether NBA or Greece) does not speak to the program being in "turmoil" as you said in the title of this article. If the program was in turmoil, we wouldn't have gotten Boynton and guys like Wall and Knight wouldn't have even considered us.

Your good recruiting after titles comes a full year later. 2007 was a terrible recruiting year because of the 2006 title, 2008 was the down year that every team has and 2009 (the full year after) is where we have our marquee player in Boynton coming in.

Look at UF football. Our class this year? Eh. Our 2010 class? Un-friggin-believable.

Mike Mike (can't go by just one?), a program is not in turmoil because one "good" player leaves and a bunch of others who weren't getting on the floor decide to transfer. Was the program in turmoil when Walsh and Roberson left early? No, it wasn't. Because they took the garbage out for us and let the talent come in and shine.

...if only Werner declared too... :(

Oh, and when I say "eh" for our 2009 class, I'm just exaggerating...it's a good class...but it is going to pale in comparison to 2010.

I think Mike2 is a Cane. He is trying to propagate controversy at UF to help Knight go to UM.

I am not saying we've been great but we're 49-23 (.681) in a bad spell during the past 2 years and Miami is 41-23 (.641) in a decent spell.

If Speights stayed this team could have gone deep in the tournament. Tyus would have played PF. Different complexion. Now you are going to blame it on BD? Common - give up hater.

Well I'm no Cane, I'm a UF student, but no matter how you want to spin it, all of this is bad news for the Florida basketball program, and I feel that Billy bears responsibility for it.
And Adam, you can blame Joe for the Mike Mike thing, that was his doing.

See ya Nick, it's been fun watching you, but I'm not sure I can remember one game where you hit a game winner or closed out a big game by hitting free throws. Nick was a great player, but I'm not sure he was the team player and leader we needed. The team chemistry appeared to be lacking, that's something that needs to be addressed ASAP. Any chance Dan Werner will leave early? Isn't there some Eastern European league that will take him? Please?

This whole thread is killing me, but as a Gator for a long time and a college basketball lover first, I have one thing to say: GOODBYE NICK CALATHES !!

The kid is a pretty-boy punk who never had the passion and leadership to take us back. What's funny is that anyone who talks about any of this and thinks that our team will be ANY worse without Calathes knows little about college basketball. Reminds me of Roberson and we all know how much better our team got WITHOUT him.

Give me guys that care and will listen to Billy rather than pretty Vidal-Sasoon gelled up Fabio-types that (admittedly have unbelievable range and a great passing ability) and we'll be right back.

Looking at espn.com reports from the early 2000's, someone should note that Al, Noah, Lee (wish we still had him), and Richards were all rated LOWER than 3 1/2 stars.

I'm ready for this next group to emerge and ready to do it without Calathes. Peace out buddy, welcome to oblivion

Good post, GatorJoe.

Perhaps a bit harsh on Calathes Gator Joe. While his departure elicits no more than a "meh" from me, I think "punk" isn't fair. The holes in the team probably put extra pressure on him to carry them. If the Gators had a presence down low we'd probably be painting an entirely different picture. Many factors led to his departure.

Nick's departure goes beyond hair gel and pretty boy is probably the last term I would use to describe him.

Clutch, leader, scrappy, and gutsy are the last words I would use to describe Nick Calathes.

I will use "smart' though ... going to Greece for that salary rather than being a second-round choice in the NBA or showing his weaknesses for another year in Titletown is a GREAT decision.

Guys, I truly believe that you live and die a Gator -- I've been an UF grad alum for 18 years and would never go against Gator Nation -- but Nick Calathes' departure is welcome news.

Anyone want to bet that Chandler Parsons has his best year EVER next season?

Considering Calathes is the only reason Parsons got a scholarship here, I bet Billy D. wishes he left, too.

As I have opined before, Calathes does not have a complete NBA skill set, and what he severely lacks (speed and quickness) ain't ever coming...we gator fans saw it, NBA Scouts knew it and Nick finally realized it...he would have been EATEN alive. Thus, good luck to a wonderful college player in today’s game.

Kentucky will drill the entire league next year...UGLY!

As much as I am a die-hard Billy D fan, Dude has not been the same after the Orlando debacle...and that is what it was a DEBACLE for him and our program. His recruiting has been horrible, team preparation horrible and scheduling horrible (loading up on weak sisters does not "build confidence" Billy...It makes your team soft down the stretch)

Next year with Billy Barty running the point and our beloved core of Werner, Parsons, Tyus...holly crap...next year when we suck (Macklin – GBU Man, sorry about this), and we will, the national media will turn on Billy and our recruiting will be hit even harder....I don't see a turnaround with Billy unfortunately.

Hey, Girls Softball ROCKS!

Well, I really don't see what the big deal is about Calathes leaving. He was going to leave one way or another. He got the opportunity to cash in and he took it. He would NOT have made more cash by staying another year, and his NBA draft stock would not have risen much higher, He made the SMART move for him, as he should have.

As for the state of the program, we are just 3 years removed from back to back titles, and our third Final Four this decade...not too shabby Billy D. People can complain all they want about recruits bailing or players leaving early but this is nothing new (remember Kwame Brown, Matt Walsh or Roberson or Mike Miller).

People seem to forger that the first of the two back to back titles was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Billy D built this program from nothing....he can do it again.

Calathes is still better than Bryan Pata

Folks, just focus on our football team and leave basketball behind for awhile because it is not going to get any better for several years. Things are back to normal (i.e., Kentucky winning every year, Florida simply a mediocre team) now in the SEC. If Billy D is such a good coach, then why can't he recruit well? Dan Werner will go down as one of the biggest, overhyped flops in college basketball history. Kadji and Vargas are both raw prospects that probably won't pan out above average. The fact he couldn't use 2 National titles to lure in top recruits was ridiculous (Calathes was still coming to UF regardless). Florida was never going to be consistent in basketball like a Kansas, Duke, NC, Kentucky, any Big East team, etc. We went through one lucky streak - and the streak is over. Sure, we'll still get a top recruit every now and then to keep us interested - and I'm sure the questionnable recruits (undersized sticks like Parsons or Tyus and raw projects (rest of the team) but that will be about it.

So, back to something that actually matters - who's got tickets to the Tennessee football game?

hey clueless...buy a vowel

first UK hasn't won anything yet
second Kadji looks promising to me (Vargas is probaly out again next year)
third we've made the NCAAs 9 of 11 years
next we have the 3rd most wins of any team this decade
with 11 straight 20 win seasons only 4 other teams greater
we have 10 players drafted since 2000- top 10

gumbygator, why in the name of God would you ever say that? what does that have to do with anything?

The comments to this entry are closed.