For the second time in 10 days, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan went out of his way to openly praise Will Muschamp, standing behind Florida’s embattled football coach as Muschamp faces a likely dismissal following his team’s poor start to the 2014 season.
Last Wednesday, Donovan said he had an “enormous amount of respect” for Muschamp, noting that he took over a challenging situation in 2011 and dealt with an insane number of injuries in 2013. Donovan even revealed that he had Muschamp speak with the basketball team this past summer in order to enlighten players on how quickly success can turn into struggle.
During an appearance on an ESPN.com college basketball podcast that was published on Friday, Donovan went even further in his support of Muschamp.
“I will tell you this: I am a huge Will Muschamp fan,” he said.
“I really respect him as a man, and I respect the way he goes to work every day and the way he’s tried to deal [with this situation] and address his team. Certainly in these situations, they’re always challenging, but as a man, he’s a great guy, and I think he’s an outstanding football coach.
“I don’t know enough about the Xs and Os to probably pass an opinion on that, but I do know that Will Muschamp is a man and there’s nobody rooting harder for him than I am because he’s about all the right things. And he’s a football coach. And he’s a coach to the core. And I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Donovan noted, as many have before, that Muschamp’s 4-8 record in 2013 was due in large part to 15 season-ending injuries (10 to starters). The basketball coach called it “totally impossible to overcome the level and talent of players that [Muschamp] had [injured].”
He also has no doubt that Muschamp’s mindset, at this time, is on improving the Gators on the field, not his job status for the remainder of this season and beyond.
“I would imagine that every day he’s putting his head down, getting to work and figuring out how to make his team better. And I just don’t see them as football coaches, or any coach for that matter, really having time to deal with all that [external noise]. There’s nothing you can do about that,” Donovan said. “The only thing he has control over, that any of us do as coaches, is to try to get our team better and to try to get them to move in a positive direction. I think as a coach, you try to control the things you can control there.”
He added: “Listen, if Will Muschamp is out playing golf every single day and he’s not working and he’s not doing that, I get that, but this guy is working his tail off and he’s in there I can tell you, around the clock, trying to make this team better.”
Donovan said he has “a lot of respect and a lot of love” for Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and the way he has “stood by Will” and given him “every opportunity to be successful.”
In the end though, he’s much less concerned about Will Muschamp as he is the Muschamp family, which is unable to shield themselves from the major criticisms and insults hurled at their husband and father from seemingly every direction.
“That bothers me deeply in all this stuff. I think as coaches we understand that we’re in a job and there’s going to be some criticism and there’s going to be some people that aren’t happy with the way things are going. And I get that. But I just don’t like it when people don’t’ take into consideration that here’s young kids and there’s families involved that have to do with that stuff,” he said.
“I really hope that on every college campus, people would say, ‘Listen we’re going to trust the administration, the coach. We’re just going to rally around the team, let the chips fall where they may and just be as supportive as we possibly can.’ I know I’m leaving in a fantasy land by saying that, but I think sometimes people don’t realize that Will Muschamp has got some young kids, he’s got a great family, a great wife there.
“It’s probably a lot harder for them to get away from that kind of noise than it is for will. Will can go into the office and get down and deal with players on the practice field, and he’s doing it. But his wife and his kids, they got to deal with and see that kind of stuff, and I always worry about how in some way that impacts them in any form or fashion.”