Florida’s Billy Donovan at 2012 SEC Media Day

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan joined the league’s other 13 coaches at 2012 SEC Media Day on Thursday in Birmingham, AL. Donovan participated in a number of interviews as he discussed his team heading into the upcoming 2012-13 season. Below are some choice notes and quotes from his appearances.

» On senior guard Kenny Boynton: “It’s hard to believe that he’s a senior. I remember recruiting him vividly. It just seems like yesterday. This is his last year. He’s come in and been a starter from day one. He’s made a great impact in our program. He’s helped us achieved a lot of success. And I’m going to enjoy coaching him because he’s a guy I’m going to miss coaching someday.”

» On his recruitment of Boynton, which included handing his family a Nerf gun and allowing them to shoot it at him: “I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to tell you exactly how you’re going to fit in, how I see you, what we feel about you. If I say anything that you think I’m totally lying through my teeth, you don’t have to sit there and call me a liar. If you feel embarrassed to do it, just shoot me with the Nerf gun.’ It was pretty funny. It was more of a joke or a sense-of-humor thing than anything else. Thank God I didn’t get shot.”

» Donovan was asked about the Gators taking the next step this season and earning their first trip to the Final Four since 2007 after flaming out in the Elite Eight in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. While he does hope the team can advance that far in the tournament this year, he made it clear that it is not the objective at this point in time.

“Because the last two years we’ve been right there for a Final Four and have come up a little bit short, the normal tendency of anybody that’s returning would be to say, ‘OK, this is the year we’re going to try to break through and get to a Final Four.’ I think that is probably the worst kind of mentality we can have,” he said. “What we got to understand is that there is a process you have to go through as a basketball team and that process started two weeks ago. We got to go through this process of practice and games and get better and improve and deal with the ups and downs and the struggles and the challenges.

“Although last year was a successful year and you’re right there on the cusp of getting to a Final Four, we’ve got to be willing – as players and coaches – to start back all the way up because it’s a long journey up that mountain. We can’t just think we’re picking up on that mountain where last season ended. We’re starting all the way back down at the bottom of the mountain, and we got to be committed to making that journey back up the mountain again. You can play really, really well and still come up short. I thought in the two games we lost, we played pretty well. We just lost on some teams – Louisville and Butler – making more plays and better plays than we did. Overall as a game, I didn’t think that we performed poorly. I thought it was more of a credit to what those guys did.”

» A hot topic of conversation Thursday was the Kentucky Wildcats’ all-access program that has been airing on ESPNU the last few weeks. Donovan was asked about the show and gave an honest response that has since gotten the Kentucky faithful enraged after the team’s local media outlets spun the opening portion of the quote.

“I do think if you are using it as a recruiting tool, I don’t think that’s right,” said Donovan in general about all-access shows, according to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “If you are using it in a way to maybe help young players out there, to see what a college practice, college environment is like … I did an all-access show for coaches to buy so to speak, drills, practices those kind of things.

“Whatever your philosophy is, we’re always selling our programs in one way or other, whether it’s all-access, whether it’s DVDs, whether it’s media days, we’re always selling our programs. For me if was doing something like that, I would want it to be done in a way to represent how we do things at Florida.”

Note: While ESPN’s past all-access shows have featured many facets of the teams covered in the program, none has gone in-depth on recruiting. Kentucky’s all-access show has featured three players committing to the team with in-depth looks at each.

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