Billy Donovan reveals battle with depression after Florida Gators’ second title win

By Adam Silverstein
April 9, 2019
Billy Donovan reveals battle with depression after Florida Gators’ second title win
Basketball

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Former Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is known for being boisterous, high-energy and often positive — except when he’s being critical of his players — so it came as a bit of an eye-opener on Saturday when he revealed his state of mind following Florida’s second national championship victory at the conclusion of the 2007 season.

During a postgame interview with reporters, the current Oklahoma City Thunder coach revealed that he battled depression after the Gators won their second of back-to-back national titles over a decade ago. This response came after Donovan was asked whether he agreed with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s statement that Izzo felt he needed a second national title to validate his career.

“I was depressed. I lost total sight of what it’s all about,” Donovan said. “And I don’t mean what it’s all about in terms of what goes into winning, but the fact that [winning] doesn’t change your life one bit, other than someone may write next to your name, ‘national champion coach.’ Outside of that, it does not change your life.”

He continued: “And then what happens is you get to a place — and the first time it really resonated with me was I saw an interview on ’60 Minutes’ with Tom Brady when I think the Patriots had won three of their five Super Bowls. And after the third one he asked himself, ‘Is this what it’s all about?’ Because, at the end of the day, if it’s all about the ring and the trophy, you lose the most valuable thing, and it’s the group of people and the relationships that are established, of people working together to accomplish something they couldn’t accomplish on their own.”

Former Florida head football coach Urban Meyer previously revealed that his obsession with winning was so great he was unable to enjoy his second national championship with the Gators. In fact, Meyer recalled running into a closet-sized office moments after the on-field celebration of the second title in order to call recruits and pitch them on committing to the program.

The greatest coach in Florida basketball history, Donovan led the Gators from 1996 to 2015, advancing to four Final Fours, winning four SEC Tournaments and three times being named SEC Coach of the Year. He went 150-96 in his first three seasons with the Thunder but has lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs each of the last two seasons. OKC is currently 47-33 and sixth in the Western Conference.

If you or someone you know is battling depression, please call the free SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit SAMHSA.gov.

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