From falling to the Brigham Young Cougars in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament and losing sophomore guard Ray Shipman to transfer to being a name rumored in two head coaching openings (St. Johns, Oregon) while recruiting players for his 2010 and 2011 classes, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has had plenty on his mind in recent weeks.
Speaking with the media Wednesday, Donovan appeared somewhat distraught at losing Shipman, a “great kid” who he empathizes with and would take back “in a heartbeat.”
Read what Donovan said about Shipman and the team’s future after the break!
“I have a total understanding of what any player goes through as it relates to playing time or role,” Donovan said. “And I think the reason I’m maybe more sensitive than most about it is because – 25 years ago – I was the same kid who walked into the coach’s office and asked to transfer, too.”
“If [Shipman] feels like, you know what, ‘I want to come back…’ I think sometimes that epiphany, when they come back, they actually get a lot better,” he added. “Ray is always welcome here. We’re working out our guys today at 3 and 4 [p.m.], and he’ll be out there in the groups. […] The only thing Ray Shipman wants – he wants more playing time. He wants a bigger role. It’s hard to get upset with somebody like that. If Ray ever wanted to come back, I would definitely welcome him back.”
One thing Donovan won’t do, however, is bring somebody back under false pretenses.
“He wants a bigger role, and as a coach, I’m not going to make promises to kids to keep them there if I can’t back up and follow up that kind of promise,” he said. “He has an opportunity like any guy on the court to earn that type of role.”
And that is the same reason Donovan stayed away from commenting on job openings with St. John’s and Oregon, two destinations that were rumored to be heavily pursing him through back channels.
“I think any of that stuff, a lot of time, it’s media-driven speculation,” Donovan said. “I’ve never – and will never – comment on that stuff because none of it was true. There was a lot going on with the St. John’s situation and it was amazing to me, my family and people back in New York [calling me] and I was like I have no idea about any of this stuff.”
Of course, Donovan’s relationship with the University of Florida’s administration and the Gainesville, FL, community would make it difficult for him to even consider leaving.
“I think here, the one thing that makes it unique, is the administration,” he said. “I’ve got a great relationship with Jeremy [Foley]. Although there’s been a couple of different presidents that have come through here, they’ve been extremely supportive and they’ve all been great people. I love Dr. [Bernie] Machen, and he is a terrific guy. I’ve always been very happy here. I like it here in the community, I like the administration. I like everything about it. So I’m very, very happy. And I also think your happiness has got to be created for yourself. I don’t think you can look for exterior things to try to create a level of happiness here. So for me, I’m excited. And looking forward to the future as it relates to jobs and things like that, a lot of time you’re just not going to comment every time something is thrown out there.”
With attention turned back to the 2010-11 season, Donovan poked some fun at those already questioning how far the team can go next year.
“You shifted pretty quickly. Three or four weeks ago it was, ‘Can you even get in [to the NCAA Tournament]? So now it’s, ‘Now can you make a deep run?’” he said. “You flipped it pretty quickly.”
Nevertheless, he realizes that his staff must concentrate on recruiting in order to build the much-needed depth that the Gators lacked this past season.
“We’ve been actively recruiting players all year long,” Donovan said. “I think it all depends on the fit and the need and is it someone we feel is going to be able to contribute over a period of time. I’ve never been a big believer in just jumping in and offering someone a scholarship just to give away a scholarship. […] There is no question we need to continue to add some depth into our backcourt. It could be one [guy], it could be two, it could be three. […] I think it all depends on the fit and the need and is it someone we feel is going to contribute?”
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