Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the 400th game of his career on Monday when Florida routed Stetson 96-70 in Orlando, FL. Following the game, Donovan was hit with a Gatorade shower in the locker room and got to celebrate for a short while with the team and visitors Chandler Parsons and Jason Williams. In his post-game press conference, Donovan spoke at length about reaching 400 victories and his coaching career.
On what winning 400 games means to him: “One, I’m definitely clearly getting older. A guy like Jason Williams is here at the game, and he was obviously a part of it when it first started, coaching him. Chandler came in the locker room [and I thought about] his time here. Joakim Noah has been on campus a lot with the lockout. The Brent Wrights of the world. The [Udonis] Haslems. I think more about the time here and the guys that have come through. There have been a lot of special guys. Not only the guys that people get a chance to watch that are in the NBA, because those are obvious guys, but the Justin Hamiltons, the Brent Wrights, the Major Parkers – that first recruiting class. Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Brett Nelson, there have been so many guys that have come through that were close to making the NBA that maybe didn’t make it that had a huge significance and impact on our program. It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s a lot of really good quality kids I’ve coached for a period of time. It’s hard to believe you see Jason Williams. The guy is married, he already has a couple of kids and is retired from the NBA. It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older.”
Read everything else Billy Donovan had to say…after the break!
On being able to celebrate the win with good friend John Pelphrey by his side: “It was a great feeling. I would be remiss not to even mention a lot of the guys that I’ve had a chance to work with starting with Donnie Jones and Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey. And then having Rob Lanier and Shaka Smart and Louis Preston. Now having Norm [Roberts] and John back and Matt McCall. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had a lot of really high level quality top assistants that have done a really good job. The other thing you look at too is in today’s day and age, where there is so much turnover in coaching, and really college athletics has changed so much. I’m probably in a unique and rare situation with the fact that, although there has been a lot of great presidents that have come through the University of Florida since I’ve been there – and I’ve had a great relationship with all of them – the one mainstay for me has been Jeremy Foley and my relationship with him that started 16 years ago. That has been a great relationship beyond the professional side of going to work every day and working with him at a great intuition. There has been a lot of people that have been a major part of that, that have sacrificed a lot from players, coaches and administration that have given us an opportunity to go out and try to compete.”
On being older but still the youngest active coach with 400 wins: “One of the first things that comes to mind for me in coaching is Coach [Rick] Petino giving me the opportunity to work at Kentucky with him. He gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and thrust me into a lot of different situations. He forced me to grow in a lot of different ways, challenged me. It really started with him, the time and energy and sacrifices he and his family have made for me.”
On if he can even look ahead to a larger win total: “I’m sure, if you ask Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim if they were going to coach until they were 70, they would have said, ‘No way.’ It’s hard to imagine coaching that long in this day and age. So much of it has changed from even when I first started out. A lot of things have changed. As long as I feel like I do right now in terms of the energy and the passion and the enthusiasm and the excitement, then I’m going to keep doing what I really enjoy doing. But I think there’s always that fear and worry that, do you get to a point where you say, ‘OK, now it’s time and I’ve had enough,’ or ‘I’m not enjoying this as much as I did,’ or ‘I’m not as passionate and motivated.’ When I look at coaching another 24-25 years, I’m not even halfway through to that point. It’s hard for me to even grasp what a guy like Mike Krzyzewski or Jim Boeheim or Jim Calhoun or guys like that that are obviously up there in age and still have the level of passion and enthusiasm that they do.”
On how the game has changed since he first began coaching: “Patrick Ewing today was at our shoot around and I played a year with Patrick and he’s a great guy, but it’s hard to believe in this day and age that Patrick would be in college for four years. [...] That’s totally changed now. The level of money that’s generated in college athletics, and in particular what’s generated in college football and stuff like that, there is kind of a microwave to get it done right now, the pressure to get it done right now and it’s hard to stay in a place for a period of time. There was a time where there probably was for coaches, 25 years ago or 20 years ago, a lot more patience at the college level. Some of that stuff has changed. A lot of it has changed because of the amount of money coaches are making, the amount of money institutions are making, the commitment that fans and alumni and boosters make to a program.
“The last several years it’s been guys going to college for a year and they can leave. For a while there it was guys going right out of high school. Even with the Kwame Brown situation, he never even made it here and went right out of high school. Kids now, and I understand it, I’m not faulting them or anybody because they have an opportunity to earn an income. There was a view where you need to get your education before you go professional sports. Now it’s: I have a certain amount of a window year-wise to make money and earn income. I can earn more income playing professional – whether it be overseas or the NBA – than I ever could make I if took my degree and started out at an entry level job. Therefore, I think the view for a lot of guys is that they can always go back and get it or do it online. There was never online classes 25 years ago, now guys can get their degrees online. Everything has changed. I’m not saying it’s bad change, just everything has changed.
“The NCAA right now is having a hard time keeping up with all that change. So much has changed, even from the way kids communicate now from text messaging, e-mailing and tweeting. It’s totally different. I’m not saying it’s bad, just different. That’s why there is so much of a push now for these guys to be paid while they are in college, because a lot of money is generated in college athletics.”
On if he has ever felt pressure from someone other than himself to win: “You always have, when you’re working for an institution or working for somebody, an internal level of responsibility to do the best job you can and not let people down. You don’t want to let people down you don’t want to let the athletic director down or the president down or the school down or the fans down. The day-to-day job of doing the job, I know what really needs to be done. A lot of times, people from the outside looking in, they don’ necessarily know you’re being evaluated of what takes place inside the lines on the court whether you win or lose. There are things I’ve learned over the years where there’s’ probably a lot more smaller victories that take place inside practice and the gym that I have a level of appreciation for now that I didn’t 15 or 20 years ago. Most of the pressure is coming from the expectation level that I have of doing the best job I can performing in the job that I have right now. And then when you’re working with great people, you want them to feel good about what you’re doing.”
On taking the Gatorade shower: “I got got pretty good. I’m not sure whose paying for the dry cleaning bill. I told the guys, they’re a part of it, too. I’ve been fortunate to coach not only good players but really good people. It’s nice when you go into a locker room and you see a group of guys happy for 400 games. That was nice that I could share it with them.”
On Urban Meyer going to Ohio State: “I spoke to him last week right before Thanksgiving when all this stuff was going on. They had been talking. I do think that for him, in my conversation with him, a lot of it was just about his family, spending time with them to talk about it. I said this before, there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to go back in at some point. Sometimes unique situations happen. Jim Tressel is a great coach and has done a great job there, but if those situations don’t happen maybe Urban’s not back in coaching. It probably took for him a unique situation as it relates to where he grew up, where he started coaching, being form Ohio. There’s probably some things there for him that internally mean a great deal. That’s what he was trying to look over. I don’t think it has anything to do with…he loves Florida, loved his time here. But if he was out, I’m not so sure he’s just jumping into any job. I think he was waiting for something that really made sense for him, and that really made sense for him.”