Indecision '07: Changing your mind in public view

Updated: June 4, 2007, 8:09 PM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

It's been a wildly indecisive week in Sportsworld.

At noon Wednesday, Kobe Bryant wanted to get as far away from the Los Angeles Lakers as possible -- Pluto, to be precise. By midafternoon, he was vowing that he never wanted to wear a uniform that wasn't purple and gold.

Billy Donovan
Travis Lindquist/Getty ImagesThe lure of coaching at Florida has Billy Donovan conflicted.
On Friday, Billy Donovan was wearing an Orlando Magic-inspired necktie (black and blue, a color scheme that aptly describes the franchise's post-Shaquille O'Neal existence) and being introduced to the next chapter in his basketball life. By Sunday night, he was pondering an exit strategy to go back to the Florida Gators.

This gives us an opportunity to ponder the politics of indecision.

Faced with major life choices, people change their minds all the time. That's why we have divorce lawyers and moving vans. Fortunately for most of us, we don't get interviewed on either side of a change of heart.

In sports, we're on a flip-flopping spree -- rife with public angst and providing endless grist for the 24/7 media mill. Some guys can't stay retired (Clemens, Roger). Some can't make themselves retire (Favre, Brett). Then there are the guys who cannot decide where they want to work.

Of the two recent switcheroos, Donovan's certainly seems more genuine and more understandable. He wasn't trying to manipulate, the way Bryant did, and he certainly wasn't going to war.

But Donovan's 180 is also more problematic. Signing a contract can put a guy in a bind, as Billy found out during a long Monday of maneuvering to get back to the college game he never should have left. Even for three days.

It could be an expensive weekend for Billy D. If he wants to be a Gator, he probably will be -- it's impossible to see the Magic perniciously locking in a coach who doesn't want to be there -- but there might be a penalty for breaking the $27.5 million agreement.

This follows an increasing trend in college coaching. Earlier this spring, Dana Altman jilted Arkansas after a day. Gregg Marshall dumped the College of Charleston last year after a day -- prompting the hiring of Bobby Cremins, who once went from Georgia Tech to South Carolina and back to Georgia Tech in a matter of days. Before Tim Floyd took the USC job, Rick Majerus accepted it, then backed out.

In the cases of Altman, Marshall and Donovan, they were looking at a big raise to leave a comfortable place for something largely unknown. They also were faced with making a big decision quickly, compressing the time to think. Perhaps when the adrenaline rush wore off, they realized that money wasn't going to buy them any more of the happiness they already had.

I'm guessing Donovan simply came to the wise realization that he has a great thing where he is. That he is wired for college basketball. That his family is at peace with its seasonal rhythms and demands. That he can build one of the great legacies in the history of the game. And that he is happiest when he is winning and will win a much higher percentage of the time at Florida than at Orlando.

So I can't blame a guy for following his gut instead of his wallet. Donovan will take some hits over this for breaking a deal and appearing so indecisive. (One buddy said they should change the name of the O'Connell Center to The Waffle House.) But there will be no long-term damage to his credibility -- certainly not with recruits who will see Donovan as more committed to Florida than ever.

At the very least, it might be a good long time before the NBA again flirts with Billy D.

Kobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesKobe Bryant said the return of Jerry West would help him make up his mind to stay in L.A.
At least Bryant entered into nothing legal and binding. All he did was spout off to anyone who would listen -- starting on the air with Stephen A. Smith -- about his disgust with Lakerkind and his desire to leave the only franchise he has known as a professional.

But the whiplash-inducing turnaround by Kobe also made his earlier tantrum smack of insincerity. Either that or he is so emotionally immature that he can rip someone one hour and pledge his undying loyalty the next.

Actually, what Bryant was doing boiled down to an assault on general manager Mitch Kupchak's job security. It was another example of a guy who wants everything his way, no matter how many people need to be displaced to accomplish it.

(Kobe's revelation last week that it was Jerry Buss who wanted to trade Shaq, not him, hardly merits an exoneration of Mr. Selfish. Breaking up the dynasty was still the conclusion Bryant wanted, as shown by the fact that he re-upped with the Lakers the day after that infamous trade of O'Neal to the Heat in July 2004.)

As silly as both men have looked in the past week, winning will cure everything.

Donovan and the Florida fans will love each other again when the inevitable 20 wins pile up and the NCAA Tournament bid is assured. The L.A. front office will scurry around bringing in complementary parts that will help the Lakers win more games (while not interfering with Bryant's 30 field goal attempts per night).

All will be forgiven and forgotten. Except in Orlando, where the Magic's non-Florida fans will despise Donovan forever, and in all the NBA cities that dreamed of landing Kobe Bryant.

Pat Forde is a national columnist for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.

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