No. 12/12 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability Monday.
CUTTING DOWN THE NETS
Florida did not get the opportunity to cut down the nets at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN seeing as it was Senior Day for the Vanderbilt Commodores, but the team each received a piece of one Monday while also being sized for their Southeastern Conference Championship rings.
SEC BRACKET A NON-ISSUE
Placed in the “bottom” portion of the 2011 SEC Tournament bracket, UF will receive a bye and face either Tennessee [E5] or Arkansas [W4] in quarterfinals action; should they advance, they will likely face either Mississippi State [W2] or Vanderbilt [E3]. Asked about the difficulty of his team’s bracket, Donovan shrugged off the match-ups noting that they simply do not matter. “At this time of year, it doesn’t make a difference. There’s a lot of familiarity amongst [the conference],” he said. “Every game right now adds somewhat of a new life, new challenge for everybody. The regular season is over with, so everybody is basically starting fresh going into Atlanta.”
MO’ MONEY FOR BILLY D
The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway points out that Donovan will be awarded a $50,000 bonus for winning the conference championship, a $37,500 bonus for earning a berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament and could have more money coming to him in the very near future. Outstanding bonuses he can achieve this season include $37,500 for reaching the Sweet 16, $25,000 on top of that for getting to the Final Four and an additional $150,000 if the Gators win the whole shebang. Should Florida finish in the Associated Press’s Top 10, he would grab $50,000 more.
KEEPING THE FOCUS ON WHAT’s IMPORTANT
Florida has already earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament, something the team has been unable to feel comfortable about over the prior three seasons. With that in mind, Donovan is confident his team will not overlook the upcoming SEC Tournament even though there is a bigger one in their future.
“You go in with an understanding that you can’t get to Saturday without taking care of Friday. We’re going to approach it the same way we always have done. These guys have done a pretty good job of competitively taking on what’s in front of them, and the SEC Tournament is in front of us right now,” he said.
“Winning has been important to these guys. When you win at a high level, it opens up a tremendous amount of doors for opportunity. We have been able to get better because there has been a focus on what we had to do to win and get better.”
DON’T FALL IN LOVE JUST YET…
Though Donovan is sure the team is focused and ready to prepare properly for the challenges in front of them, he continues to provide the same cautionary statement he has all season: “Don’t fall in love.”
“What I mean by that is: I love coaching these guys, they’re great. But the ebbs and flows of big win, tough loss, play great…we still have not conquered that, and that’s still a challenge,” Donovan said. “We’re not quite where we need to be, so I’m not willing to get over to that side. I do love them. I love coaching them. They need to understand that when you win like these guys have won, it becomes more difficult – it does not become easier. In a lot of ways, they’re in uncharted territory.”
Asked when he fell in love with the 2006 and 2007 national title teams, Donovan thought it through before responding. “I was a little bit leery, even the first year. I fell in love with their work ethic, unselfishness and unity as a team,” he said. “I didn’t feel that was ever going to be an issue because I saw how connected they all were. I was concerned about the lack of experience and going through what they were going through.”
QUOTES (After the break…)
On senior forward Chandler Parsons‘s shot at SEC Player of the Year: “There’s a lot of really good players in this league and obviously I’m biased because I coach Chandler. I’d love to see him win the award. There’s a lot of good players in this league and everybody will have their opinions of who they think the Player of the Year should be. With what he’s done for our team, as multidimensional as he’s been, the fact that he’s really impacted winning in the league for us this year. He really does everything and as the year’s progressed, he’s gotten better and better. He should really be given strong consideration.”
On a method the team has used to improve overall: “Identifying reasons why you lose is just as important as identifying reasons why you win.”
On how the team has meshed this season: “We’ve gotten more connected as it’s gone on where our freshmen have kind of fell into some roles. Our older guys are trying to provide leadership. We’re a connected team. We may not always play well, but we’re [not] a team that’s divided. We’ve got great guys that understand the importance of us being a team.”
On how adding freshman center Patric Young has helped the team: “It’s not only Patric. There are certain guys that like physical confrontation, and Patric’s one of those guys. In your frontcourt, in order to get better, you have to have guys that like physical confrontation. Vernon [Macklin] last year did not have enough competition physically in practice, and it wasn’t good for Vernon. Patric comes in and almost in a way irritates Vernon. And Vernon irritates Patric. [Will] Yeguete has done the same thing for Alex Tyus, and Cody Larson – even though he’s redshirting – he’s a physical guy. He’s not afraid to put his body in there. Scottie [Wilbekin] has created a physical challenge for Erving [Walker] every day, and Casey Prather has done the same thing for Chandler.”
On Al Horford’s unselfishness: “Al Horford could have averaged 22-25 points a game and 10 rebounds – easy – if I just kept running everything at him to do that. But Al was smart enough to understand, ‘You know what, I don’t need 25. For us to win, I’m gonna only get about 12-14, but our team’s going to be better.’ Our guys are starting to see, through that unselfishness, they’re all playing better, they’re all scoring more and they’re all being utilized better.”
On the strength of the SEC: “Two or three years ago, I didn’t think the league was very good because we only got three teams in. The league is really, really good [now]. […] Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama – all of them are deserving.”