Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan on Saturday became the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach 500 career victories.
Donovan (49 years, 271 days) joins former Indiana coach Bob Knight (48 years, 81 days) as the only other man in D-I history to achieve win No. 500 before his 50th birthday.
The vast majority of Donovan’s wins (465) have come with the Gators as he’s led Florida to four Final Fours, three appearances in the national title game and back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
“You’re only as good as the people around you. It’s really the players, it’s the coaches that I’ve had here. I think people lose sight, a lot of times, that Jeremy [Foley]’s been here since I started. As an athletic director, there’s an incredible bond that he and I have in terms of a shared vision. Not to say we get along and agree on everything, but I think we’re always moving together in the right direction. So there’s been a lot of stability [with Foley and my assistant coaches]. … And there’s been a lot of really, really good players that have come through,” said Donovan after the game.
Entering this season, Donovan’s streak of 16 consecutive campaigns with 20+ victories was the longest in the Southeastern Conference and fifth-longest nationally. He is also one of only eight coaches that have ever won 20+ games in 14 or more consecutive seasons.
Despite his career of milestones and success, including six SEC regular-season titles and four SEC Tournament crowns, Donovan did not earn an SEC Coach of the Year nod until 2011. However, he’s won it three times in the last four campaigns with back-to-back awards in the last two seasons.
Donovan has still yet to receive a national coach of the year award despite his tremendous success, though he was honored with the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2010.
Nevertheless, his name was chanted by the Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd just moments after he picked up his 500th win – a 66-49 victory over Tennessee – on Saturday.
“I’ve been part of at least a lot of unbelievable experiences in that building. For me personally, it was very, very meaningful,” Donovan said. “I thought there was a great crowd tonight. Obviously our team has struggled this year, and for the amount of people to come out and watch our team play, I’m very, very appreciative and very thankful for that. I thought we had a great environment, great crowd. To kind of be honored like that at the end of the game was extremely touching, and I was very, very thankful for that.”
Florida announced a contract extension with Donovan, keeping the coach with the Gators through the 2018-19 campaign, in March 2014.
Asked whether he hopes to double his career victories and achieve 1,000 before hanging up his tie, Donovan quipped that he is wondering whether he can just pick up one more win.
“I don’t know if I can get to 501 right now, you know what I mean?” he said.
“I started when I was relatively young. I still really enjoy doing this. I really do. I get great pleasure from coaching. I enjoy the games and I enjoy the preparation and I enjoy practice and those kinds of things. For me, how much longer I go, I don’t know, but I do enjoy it.”
Congrats to coach D for getting his 500th win!!! Gators basketball!!!
— Marreese Speights (@Mospeights16) March 1, 2015
— Taurean Green (@TaureanJGreen) March 1, 2015
— Will Yeguete (@Will15Yeguete) March 1, 2015
Congrats to coach d for his 500 win…greatest coach ever!
— Scottie Wilbekin (@scottiew_5) March 1, 2015
— Al Horford (@Al_Horford) March 1, 2015
Congrats to @UFCoachBillyD on #500
— Erik Murphy (@e_murphy33) March 1, 2015