The one question that’s been asked most here over the last couple years is when there would be a “30 for 30” on either the Florida Gators‘ back-to-back national championship-winning basketball teams or the Urban Meyer era in Gainesville, Florida.
So when ESPN, via the SEC Network, announced it would debut “Repeat After Us,” an hour-long documentary on the 2006-07 basketball team, fans were understandably excited. As an avid sports documentary watcher, I was as well, especially considering I lived in Gainesville for the first of those titles, have interviewed nearly ever member of the teams — still waiting for Joakim Noah — and have written extensively about the basketball program and former head coach Billy Donovan over the last eight years.
That waned minutes into watching “Repeat After Us,” when it became obvious that it was going to fail to meet expectations, even though mine were already tempered as I realized it was part of the “SEC Storied” series and not the higher-budget and more nationally publicized “30 for 30.”
In short, “Repeat After Us” is a surface-level look at a historic team that had significant natural depth to it. It’s a first-round NIT exit for a team that was just the second ever to sweep through consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
It starts with some light background on Noah and Corey Brewer but completely ignores how Al Horford and Taurean Green got to Gainesville. Outside of a shot of Billy Donvoan‘s introductory press conference and mentions of quick NCAA Tournament exits in the years preceding the Oh Fours, there’s no insight on a future Hall of Fame coach.
There’s no significant time spent on some of the toughest on-court tests the Gators faced. Florida’s struggles in its title defense season are addressed briefly, though there’s no explanation given as to how Donovan and the players turned things around — just that they did.
All of the themes you already know were covered: The Gators were unselfish. Noah, Horford and Brewer nearly left for the NBA Draft, but Brewer deciding to stay despite his family’s need for money following his father’s leg amputation got everyone on board without flinching. Noah dealt with insane pressures his junior year, including constant taunts from rival fan bases. Even the team’s closeness, the crux of the entire piece, is discussed in generalities with few specific examples or little-known stories to help present a picture of how truly close the Oh Fours were to each other. (Well, except the NBA Draft announcement, which was just as touching now as it was then.)
Perhaps most glaringly, there was absolutely no national perspective offered on the team. No one was interviewed outside of those who played or worked for Florida or covered the team as members of the local media. There were no opposing players or coaches interviewed to lend perspective as to how talented and difficult the team was to play. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, who called many of UF’s SEC games and both of its national championship wins, weren’t heard from. (Even Mick Hubert was only called on to share a single thought.) Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the only other coach to lead his team to back-to-back titles, could have been positioned as an outsider discussing the pressures associated with accomplishing such a feat.
It was also noticable that neither Adrian Moss (the lone senior on the 2005-06 team) nor athletic director Jeremy Foley contributed to the piece.
To watch a 60-minute documentary and learn just one thing (that may have been known by others but I did not or forgot) — Florida was motivated by UCLA trash talk at a banquet prior to the 2007 Final Four — is quite stunning.
For those longing for the good ol’ days of Gators basketball, it’s a nice way to spend an hour. But if you’re expecting “Repeat After Us” to go truly deliver an in-depth story — like some great documentaries directed by Jonathan Hock including “The Best That Never Was” and “Of Miracles and Men” accomplished — and reveal the ins and outs of one of arguably the greatest team in school history and an all-time college basketball team, well, you’ll probably turn it off disappointed.
They cut down the nets.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 12, 2016