During his team’s media day on Wednesday, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan threw his support behind an embattled colleague, head football coach Will Muschamp, noting that the entire athletic program is “all in this together” and hoping for a positive outcome to the football season.
“I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for Will,” Donovan began.
“Obviously for him, I look at things a little bit differently. Certainly he took over a situation that was really, really challenging, in my opinion. I thought he imposed his style of play on his team. I thought the year before, I saw an unbelievable change inside of his team from a physical standpoint from year one to year two.
“The way they had to handle all the injuries last year was something, to me, that was just totally insurmountable to ever overcome. You can’t lose the level of players – and I respected the way Will handled it because he never used that as an excuse – but the truth is you can’t lose that many good players and be good. You just can’t.
“I look at their team, even this year, there were times last year where I watched and you saw them kind of – I think Will talked about this, ‘Woe is me,’ all that stuff – their team is not that way at all. I think the guy has done an incredible job of changing the culture in terms of his team from one year to the next in a very positive way.”
Donovan respects Muschamp so much, in fact, that he invited him to speak in front of the Florida men’s basketball team this summer. Donovan hoped bringing Muschamp in would help enlighten his players on how quickly things can turn from success to struggle simply from the loss of personnel – whether due to graduation or injuries.
“As he said, you just don’t plug guys in and guys just step up. There’s a lot that he was able to provide for our team and help our team grown in his experience as a coach, too,” Donovan said.
From purely a coaching perspective, Donovan also appreciates what Muschamp does with the Gators football team and thinks it is headed on the right path this season.
“I never look at it as how we’re doing [as the basketball program]. I always look at it as ‘Florida,’ everyone doing well. But just me from a coaching standpoint? Where his team is at emotionally now and where they’re at emotionally now, it’s really impressive,” he said.
“I look at things a little bit differently. I know a lot of times people look at just results, but I think if you look at the transformation inside their team, to me, watching them play this year compared to last year, to me, it’s night and day.
“I know nothing about football. I know nothing about strategies and schemes. I’m just telling you how they’re playing the game.”
This relationship should come as no surprise to athletic director Jeremy Foley, who said on the radio two-and-a-half months ago that he believes there are a bunch of similarities between Donovan and Muschamp.
“I’m not saying Will and Billy are the same person, but [when I hired Muschamp] I saw the same energy, I saw the same passion, I saw the same enthusiasm, I saw the same track record in terms of he coached for some of the greats, certainly Nick Saban,” said Foley.
“If you were around Billy and Will, you would see some of the same characteristics – unbelievable intensity, unbelievable passion, organization skills, tremendous recruiters. You certainly hope all of that can translate into great success for our football program under Will.”