Former Kentucky Player Suspects Donovan 'Open' To Wildcat Job

Friday, March 30th 2007, 5:09 pm
By: News On 6

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ Former Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer says he spoke with Billy Donovan and suspects the Florida coach is ``open'' to considering the Wildcats job after the Final Four.

Farmer said he called his former assistant coach, and the conversation was mostly about the Final Four, where defending champion Florida plays UCLA on Saturday.

Farmer said the Kentucky job did come up, and he didn't make a hard sell. Farmer added that he would if asked by his alma mater.

``He was certainly aware of what was going on,'' Farmer said Friday. ``I think that he certainly is open to looking at the opportunity after the tournament.''

Farmer also said he has spoken recently with Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, who is leading the search to find a replacement for Tubby Smith, hired last week as Minnesota's coach. Farmer said he offered to help Barnhart in the search process, including future calls to Donovan if needed.

Farmer, who is running for re-election as Kentucky agriculture commissioner, played for Kentucky from 1988-92, and Donovan served as an assistant under Rick Pitino during part of that time.

Kentucky president Lee Todd acknowledged the next Wildcats coach would likely demand one of the nation's highest salaries. He said the athletics department budget was self-sufficient and would absorb any increase over Smith's salary, if necessary.

``There's a market out there,'' Todd said Friday. ``There's a market for a neurosurgeon. There's a market for a college president, and there's a market for one of the top basketball programs. We would expect we'll have to be near the top in what we pay.''

Todd said he has spoken with Barnhart about twice daily since the process began but declined to say whether candidates had been contacted. He confirmed Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search is aiding in the process.

School spokesman Scott Stricklin, who this week indicated the search was in its infancy, wouldn't estimate Friday when it might be completed. He also declined to comment on a report by that Kentucky was poised to offer Donovan a seven-year contract.

``We're not going to comment on the process until we have completed the search and found the right person to lead Kentucky basketball,'' Stricklin said. ``This is the kind of job that attracts a lot of attention. Certainly it's an important decision, one that you don't want to rush through.''