TWO BITS: Donovan and Knicks, Roper’s offense

1 » With the Florida Gators back on top, head coach Billy Donovan will once be written about as someone who could potentially jump to the NBA after the season. Even after he accepted the Orlando job, changed his mind and returned to Florida, Donovan has still been heavily considered by some of the top franchises in the league and remains a hot name to this day whenever there are coaching openings. There also happens to be no better team to link Donovan with than the New York Knicks, his hometown squad, the only franchise he played for in the NBA – and as it so happens – one that tends to make a coaching change every other year. ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O’Connor on Tuesday night listed Donovan as a top-five candidate to take what is expected to be an open job with the Knicks after the 2013-14 season.

He has a chance to win his third national title at Florida and, at 48, he might finally be ready for the new career challenge he accepted (and then declined days later) from the Orlando Magic in 2007. Donovan grew up on Long Island and lived out his boyhood dream when he played 44 games for Rick Pitino’s Knicks in 1987-88.

Though he still loves to tell stories of the time his mother took him to the Garden and bought him a Clyde Frazier T-shirt, Donovan rejected Isiah Thomas’ attempt to hire him as Knicks coach years ago. Would he consider leaving Florida after 18 seasons for a chance to rebuild the only team he ever wanted to play for?

“Billy would be an awesome NBA coach,” said one source who knows him well. “He doesn’t have any professional coaching experience, but Brad Stevens is managing it well in Boston and that should give the Knicks more confidence to look that way. I just don’t know if Billy would do it.”

“If I can’t get Jeff Van Gundy,” said a second source, “my next guy is Billy Donovan. Maybe he should be the Knicks’ first choice because he doesn’t have Jeff’s baggage from coaching there before. He runs a pro offense, his teams defend and I think he’s got the personality for it.”

Donovan-to-New York always has and always will make sense. However, these Knicks are not the franchise of his youth. New York has major problems in ownership, the front office and on the court with a roster hamstrung for 2014-15 and set to potentially lose its best player in Carmelo Anthony. Donovan, if or when he jumps to the NBA, would seemingly do so at an opportune time. He’s had plenty of chances in the past but turned them down to remain with the Gators where he is comfortable and working for a great friend in athletic director Jeremy Foley. Donovan still has a son who he is coaching and will remain around the team (he just got accepted to graduate school at Florida), and his father is also in town. Donovan-to-the Knicks does make sense, one day, maybe two years from now when New York is looking for the next big name coach to save the franchise. Then again, perhaps the lure of his favorite team will be too great. Perhaps owner Jim Dolan will offer too much power and money to turn down. You just never know.


2 » Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated sat down or a short question-and-answer session with new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who provided some interesting answer as to his plan to fix the Gators flailing offense for the 2014 season. Below are his most newsworthy answers, but you can read the other three comments and the rest of Evans’s column by clicking here.

On whether he is ready for the intensity of head coach Will Muschamp: “Oh yeah. The biggest thing is he’s true to himself. I think that’s a great attribute. My dad (a former college football assistant) is probably the most intense guy I’ve ever been around … Shoot, I understand from him what intensity is, and I got a chance to live it. My dad really cut his teeth as a coach under Johnny Majors. (Duke) coach [David] Cutcliffe obviously did too. Coach Majors is an intense man. I think I’ve been in that situation quite a bit.”

On how he would describe his offensive philosophy: “We want to use the width and length of the field. We call that space. We want to try to put defensive players in space and try to create as many one-on-one tackle situations for our guys as we possibly can. We do want to play with some tempo. We do want to play fast, but we don’t want to play to a tempo where it compromises execution … Our run game is going to be a spread offense run game, but we’re going to be a pro-style pass game.”

On the most important thing he learned from coaching under Cutcliffe: “Making practice like a game is the most important thing you can do. Really what that translates into is you’ve got to make everybody play at the speed at the game. You can’t let them cruise along in practice and then all of the sudden the speed of the game shocks them.”

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17 Responses to “TWO BITS: Donovan and Knicks, Roper’s offense”

  1. Barry says:

    Billy D to the Knicks sounds too much like Tebow to the Jets for me, sounds great at first, but the reality is it will never work with Jim Dolan at the helm of that franchise. But even worse than Tebow, who can no longer help the Gators anyways, losing Billy D would certainly hurt Florida basketball.

  2. Joe says:

    Adam,

    Being both a Gator and Knick what’s your feeling as a fan on losing Billy at Florida and gaining him at MSG?

    • Since I started writing about Florida, I no longer think or write like a fan of the program. This cannot be stated strongly enough.

      However, I am indeed a Knicks fan. I think Donovan would be a great coach for the franchise just not in its current state. The Knicks would be lucky to have him. As far as Florida goes, it would be a really, really tough loss for the Gators, but I would expect his coaching tree to remain in control of the program.

  3. Oldfyer says:

    For the life of me I do not understand the constant speculation that successful college coaches yearn to coach in the NBA.

    As far as I can see college basketball and NBA have no similarities other than they each use a hoop to make points. The NBA is counter to most everything that Billy D stands for in coaching, and in life.

    I don’t think Billy needs extra $$ either.

    Why can’t we just let it be?

    • Michael Jones says:

      Beautifully stated, Oldflyer. Couldn’t agree more. Add in the presence of Carmelo Anthony–the immensely talented offense/coach/team killer–and it’s even worse. Carmelo Anthony will never win a championship because he is just too selfish. He opposes anything that has to do with the concept of team basketball. He’s uncoachable and he gets coaches fired.

      Just watching him hold the ball while the other 9 players on the court stand there staring at him is unbearable.

  4. SWFL Joe says:

    Anybody who remembers Christine’s facial expression during Magic’s presser introducing Billy knows that the old saying is true, “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. Now I don’t know the lady personally but she doesn’t strike me as a real housewife of NYC type. But how cool would it be to see Billy in the NBA coaching Noah, Horford, Beal, Parsons, Brewer, Lee, Bonner, etc.

  5. gatorboi352 says:

    “Our run game is going to be a spread offense run game, but we’re going to be a pro-style pass game.”

    I don’t think this favors Matt Jones very much. Kelvin either, but less so. Kelvin’s athleticism alone will keep him on the field. But Jones is simply a large, stand up straight, bruiser of a runner.

    • Tractorr says:

      Having that big bruising back works in these offenses as well. Don’t forget we had DeShawn Wynn on the 2006 team and he was a bit more of a bruiser. Also, in the following years when Percy was out our redzone offense looked shaky because other teams could stack the box to stop Tebow. LSU used to use a variety of backs in a more spread like offense (was Jimbo the OC then?).

      I think that it is often the more bruising types of backs who don’t want to play in spreads because they will not be the feature back as they do certainly have to split time with the scatbacks.

      • ECFIVESTER says:

        Spread running doesn’t take Matt Jones out of the equation. It just means that he won’t face a loaded box. instead of relying on compact blocking with pulling or leading blockers, the offense will try to spread the defense out and attack gaps straight up. Matt’s size will just allow him to win one on one battles with linebackers. Kelvin’s vision and footwork will allow him to take advantage of lanes and pursuit angles.

        Spread running does not need to have an extremely quick back. Wynn is a poor comparison as he wasn’t much in a pro style running game in the first place.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Roper supposedly adjusts his scheme to the available talent. We’ll see if that’s true. There’s always room for a good football player, regardless of the scheme.

      Look for Adam Lane to make some noise this year.

      We are not bereft of talent. Never have been. Time to coach’em up.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        I hear you guys. Just feel bad for Jones. Can’t seem to get his break (no pun intended) although I’ll reserve judgment of Roper’s offense until I actually see it in action.

        Definitely sounds promising.

        • Michael Jones says:

          I think you misunderstand us. . . I think Tractorr is saying and I definitely am saying that Jones will get his touches. Everybody who works hard and who Roper believes can help us get into the end zone will get their touches.

          Good football coaches are looking for good football players and they utilize them to their strengths. They’re not hung up on some pre-conceived notion of what they think a football player is supposed to look like. Can they play? That’s all that matters.

          • Tractorr says:

            Yes, in my convoluted, unrevised way that is what I was saying.

            In some ways, I think splitting carries can help a back as it forces the defense to adjust to the different ball carriers. While Jones certainly looks talented, he does not seem to be a world beater so this might be good for him.

  6. Collegeballdude says:

    I hope Roper cuts Jeff loose to run the spread like Tebow did. Jeff is a bit faster than Tebow and with the other offensive weapons I think it could be successful. We need receivers to step up too. If you look at old tape of how Jeff ran at haggerty high he could be scary good.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Absolutely!! Still say Driskel is under-appreciated and underrated. He’s a tremendous talent and hopefully Roper will be able to bring it out and use it.

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