5/10: Donovan introduces his new assistants

Having now filled his depleted coaching staff following the departure of all three of his assistants, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to introduce new coaches John Pelphrey, Norm Roberts and Matt McCall. Below are some choice notes and quotes from the press conference and media availabilities.

BILLY DONOVAN

» Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson remain indefinitely suspended from the team after being (at the time) arrested for third-degree burglary. “[I want] to wait to see what actually happens. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to go through. Them getting through this and finding out exactly what they’re being charged with and what’s going to happen. Once it happens, then me stepping in to react here, I’ll do. I’m disappointed with what’s happened. Once it gets resolved and once I find out what the resolution is, I can react from there.”

» Team manager Josh Adel was not involved in the activities as initially cited by police. “There was a perception that Josh Adel was ‘the lookout.’ That wasn’t the case.”

» Florida will not be going to another country to play as initially planned during the summer. Donovan said freshman center Patric Young and signee guard Brad Beal have invitations to tryout for USA Basketball in June and July. Additionally, signee forward Walter Pitchford has to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse, the legal situation has to be resolved and the July recruiting period is important.

» On the dedication of McCall: “You want to have guys that bleed orange and blue. [John] is a Gator. Matt McCall more so than anybody else out there [is a Gator]. The University of Florida really means something to him. When you look at great programs across the country, it is the pride that somebody has inside their program that really matters. For Matt being a young guy, he lives and breathes the profession, recruiting and what goes into it.”

JOHN PELPHREY

» On returning to Florida: “It’s a blessing to have a chance [to come back here]. He’s been such a big part of my life. My focus right now is on my faith, on my family and on my Florida. If I can focus on those things, then I have a chance to be at my best and be a part of a coaching team that has a chance to bring out the best in Billy and hopefully our players.”

» On Donovan bringing out the best in others: “Everybody understands how great a coach he is, how good at recruiting he is, but when you get a chance to be around him over an extended period of time, you understand he’s just a great human being. He’s hardworking. He’s a normal guy. He has no idea he’s a hall of fame coach. He does not know that and that’s pretty cool. In life, success changes people. It doesn’t for Billy. One season ends, he starts over evaluating, looking and trying to figure out a way to be better the next day. When you get a chance to spend time with him, you see it’s real, you see it’s genuine because that’s the way he is every single day.”

» On the unique opportunity to return to Gainesville, FL: “I don’t see myself having taken this opportunity anywhere else. You’re talking about a guy that there’s only one place in America that, after two and a half weeks, he would have gone back to work. I’m pretty fortunate. [Knocks on the table] You don’t have a job and then two and a half weeks later you get the only one you would take? I think it’s a miracle. I think the good lord had his hand on it.”

» On if this is a temporary job for him: “I was here before the renovations to the O’Dome. I was here before the practice facility was built. I was here before the first run to the national championship game. I’m a little bit invested. Any leader wants the guys in the organization to be invested. For me, this is not just another place. This is a special place. […] I knew this was right.”

NORM ROBERTS

» On why he chose the Gators: “There were three things that were really important to me about the next job I would take. I had opportunities to take some Division I jobs, but they were jobs I would say would not lead to much afterwards. I wanted to coach at a high level, recruit at a high level and, for my family, try to go somewhere where we would enjoy living. […] I wanted to work for a guy I really respected. Especially when you’re a head coach and you’re coming back in, that’s what you really want to do. I’ve respected what Coach Donovan has done for quite some time.”

» On why Donovan is such a good coach: “He is a tireless recruiter. He’s done a great job in recruiting and the different players that he’s recruited all over the country. The other thing Coach Donovan does that is paramount is he does a great job recruiting players. That player may have a specific skill set that he’s really good at. And then what he does is, he allows that player to play to his strengths and then encompasses that into the team as well as developing his weaknesses. That’s very unique.”

» On the players he will be coaching: “A lot of the guys I knew already [from recruiting], so it made it a little bit more comfortable.”

» On going from head coach to assistant: “Both me and Pel understand the business; this is a new opportunity for us, an exciting opportunity for us. The one thing you try to do in this business is build great relationships and have people respect what you do. We left both those places [St. John’s, Arkansas] in a lot better shape than they were when we got there.”

MATT McCALL

» On his responsibilities right now: “From a recruiting standpoint, Coach Pelphrey and Coach Roberts have really honed in on the 2012 guys. For me, I’m trying to cast a huge net out there for 2013 and 2014.”

» McCall said he has a lot of in-state connections and will help the other assistants recruit for 2012 while also looking ahead toward the future as it is important to develop relationships as young as possible.

» On what returning to UF means to him: “To be able to say ‘Matt McCall, assistant coach at the University of Florida’ is exciting. I bleed orange and blue, like Coach Donovan told you. I grew up here coming to games, always wanted to be a ball boy when I was little. This is the profession I chose. For me, it’s more than just the University of Florida. It’s Coach Donovan, one of the best coaches in the game.”

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Former Gators F Dan Werner offered plea deal

Arrested in the early morning on April 12 in Gainesville, FL for driving under the influence, former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner has been offered a plea deal by the State Attorney’s Office and is expected to accept it sooner than later.

According to First Coast News, Werner’s punishment would include one year of supervised probation, a six-month license suspension, $500 fine and 50 hours of community service. He must also take and pass a DUI education course and could have his charged reduced to reckless driving.

Werner, who played professional basketball last season for Virtus Bologna of Italian Serie A, was pulled over in a Silver Kia with a tail light out and its high beams on. He told the officer he was driving for his intoxicated girlfriend but failed field sobriety tests when administered. Werner also submitted to a breath test and blew below the legal limit (0.08) twice but was arrested anyway.

First Coast News obtained a video copy of the DUI arrest from the SAO in Gainesville:

The Gainesville Sun reported last month that Werner admitted to playing beer pong and “drinking at least two drinks containing whiskey” at some point during the evening.

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Gators Murphy, Larson, Adel get charges reduced

Three members of the Florida Gators basketball team were arrested on April 10 for burglary in St. Augustine, FL. Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson were caught allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Joshua Adel was arrested for principal to burglary because he allegedly served as a lookout. No items were reported missing from the vehicle in the attempted theft.

One month later, all three men have had their respective charges lessened by the state with two of them still facing legal action, according to The Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway who spoke with a representative at the State Attorney’s Office.

Larson and Murphy now have second-degree misdemeanor charges for criminal trespassing (instead of third-degree felonies for burglary), while Adel’s charge was not just reduced, it was thrown out altogether.

“[Larson and Murphy] have paid restitution to the victims to get a headlight fixed,” spokesperson Shannon Peters told the Sun. “The charges reflect that they tried to go into another person’s car without permission. [Adel] was charged as being the lookout when the evidence showed that wasn’t the case. He was, in fact, discouraging them.”

Brockway also reports that a court date has not yet been set for Murphy and Larson to enter their respective pleas.

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C Speights: “If I can get in there, I’ll produce.”

Suffering an early exit from the 2011 NBA Playoffs, former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights and the Philadelphia 76ers are now thinking about next year after being defeated 4-1 by the No. 2-seed Miami Heat.

A reserve on the Florida basketball team that won the 2007 NCAA National Championship, Speights started one season for the Gators (his sophomore year) before declaring for the NBA Draft and eventually being selected by the 76ers with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round. He sat down with OGGOA to discuss his college experience, the tough decision he faced after his second season with the team and what team he thinks will end up taking home the NBA title this year when all is said and done.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Your first year at Florida was obviously an adjustment as there were still a bunch of the upperclassmen holding starting roles. How was it walking into a team with established guys like Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard already getting major minutes?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: “It was a learning experience because the guys in front of me had already won a championship before I got there. It was a learning experience for me. A year to get better and a year to learn college basketball.”

AS: That team went on to win the National Championship for the second-straight time that year. What was it like playing on such a big stage so early in your career?
MS: “It was a great feeling. It is an opportunity nobody really has. A lot of people don’t really have that opportunity, so it was a great accomplishment for me.”

AS: Before the next season began, head coach Billy Donovan left for the NBA to lead the Orlando Magic only to change his mind and come back a few days later. How hard was that situation to deal with as a player?
MS: “It was hard because at one point we didn’t have no coach. It was a few guys with no coach, and everybody was wondering what was going to happen. But he came back and everything was good.”

AS: Were any of the players worried that he might leave again?
MS: “You could tell he really liked Florida a lot, that’s why he came back. We knew that when he came back he was going to be here for a while. It wasn’t going to be one year; it was going to be long-term.”

AS: The next year you became a starter and took advantage of it. I know Coach Donovan expected that, even as well as you played, you would be back at least one more season. When you first declared for the draft, were you doing it just to check your stock or was it always your plan to leave?
MS: “I was doing it just to check my stock. I really wanted to come back, but I heard the good news and I thought I should take the opportunity while it was there. I had to. It was real hard to tell him that I was going to the draft because I knew if I came back the team would have gotten even better. I had the opportunity, so I had to take it.”

AS: The decision obviously worked out as you were taken in the middle of the first round by Philadelphia. What was that transition to the NBA like? You played a lot of minutes right from the start in your rookie season.
MS: “The transition was kind of cool. I had to get used to travelling, playing against players [I] watched growing up and stuff. But it was a good step.”

AS: You started your second NBA season with a bang but then went down with a MCL injury. How difficult was that for you to deal with?
MS: “It was kind of hard because it kept me out for a long time. It was something I wasn’t used to, so I started working harder to get back there.”

AS: This year your minutes were pretty inconsistent. Some games you played over 20 minutes and others you were only on the court for a few if at all. How tough is that to deal with as a player?
MS: “The first season, I knew I was going to come in and play consistent [minutes]. This year, it was so inconsistent that I never knew how to prepare for the game because I never knew if I was going to get in or not. It was hard for me to prepare myself this year. I might have a good game one game and then come back and play three minutes and then after that DNPs [“do not play” – a designation given by the coach] for three games and then come back and play 15 minutes. It was the whole year – inconsistent. I feel like if I can get in there, I’ll produce. That’s how I’ve been my whole career.”

AS: You played against every team remaining in the playoffs this year. Which has the best chance to win the whole thing?
MS: “Miami. They are really coming together and they’re going to win it. On the court, you can tell how good they really [are], even things you can’t see on TV. It’s just some of the things they do and stuff. The connection they’ve got so early.”

AS: Philadelphia is known as a very critical sports city. What has it been like playing there with the fans?
MS: “It’s a hard place to play at because, if you don’t give them what they want, they’re going to boo you. It’s kind of hard but, this year we were winning, so we got a lot of support. The fans show a lot of support.”

AS: How have your relationships with some of your former teammates and coaches changed and/or developed since you left?
MS: “I talk to Coach [Donovan] all the time. It’s a pretty good relationship. Vernon Macklin, me and him were practically teammates at Hargrave [Military Academy], so we’re really close. I’ve known him for like 5-6 years. I talk to all of them but mostly him. I talked to him [Wednesday] for like 20 minutes about preparing for the [draft] process.”

AS: Looking back on your career at Florida, aside from winning the title as a freshman, what is the one moment you will always remember – either on or off the court?
MS: “Other than the championship, I got a couple. There was a home game my freshman year when we played Alabama. I came down and scored like eight-straight points and we won that game [4-for-4 for eight points in five minutes in the first half]. Then the first-round tournament game against Jackson State. I had a good game there, too [7-for-10 for 16 points with six boards in 10 minutes].

» OGGOA INTERVIEWS:
LB Mike Peterson | PG Taurean Green | QB Tim Tebow | QB Danny Wuerffel | ESPN’s Erin Andrews | ESPN’s Erin Andrews II | DE Alex Brown | WR Percy Harvin | F/C Al Horford | WR David Nelson | QB Shane Matthews | TE Cornelius Ingram | DE Jermaine Cunningham | S Major Wright | LB Earl Everett | DE Justin Trattou | DT Terron Sanders | F/C Chris Richard | DE Lynden Trail

Photo Credits: Associated Press, Unknown

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FOUR BITS: No. 1, Parsons, Spikes, Pouncey

1 » Combining the accomplishments of football and basketball teams nationally thus far during the BCS era, Rivals.com has listed the Florida Gators as the top overall program in the country. With 81 total points (44.5 from football and 36.5 from basketball based on their specific scoring system), Florida is 12 points ahead of the runner-up (Ohio State, 69) and out in front by 16 points over No. 3 overall (Texas, 65).

2 » Working his way up draft boards, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently training on the West Coast in preparation for the 2011 NBA Draft. ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford recently got to watch him practice along with a number of other prospects and came away impressed, bumping him up to potential first-round pick status.

Parsons really surprised me. I knew he was skilled and athletic for a 6-foot-10 player. But he showed aggressiveness that I just hadn’t seen at Florida. […] He showed the ability to take [Paul] George off the dribble to the rim, rise up and hit jumpers over George’s freakishly long arms and most importantly he made a number of spell-binding passes to [Malcolm] Thomas. Parsons’ decision-making in the sets was fantastic. So was his shooting. He was hitting just about every shot he took and showed range out to the NBA 3-point line.

3 » Taking a look at players who are “soon to be stars” in the AFC East, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson thoroughly discussed New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes’s future in a blog post on ESPN on Thursday:

Brandon Spikes is the perfect fit as the heavier take-on inside linebacker in Bill Belichick’s 3-4 scheme. Pass coverage — particularly man coverage against tight ends and swifter running backs — will probably always be a problem for Spikes, but what Spikes does, he does very well. This guy stops the run. And he stops the run very well. Spikes is a downhill player who is very quick to react. He does his best work between the tackles and as a fantastic take-on linebacker. He is also the ideal complement to Jerod Mayo, who is more of the athletic free-lancing type. Spikes rarely plays a bad game and is a model of consistency — even at such a young age (23).

4 » Choosing to workout up north with his brother and some of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, Miami Dolphins center/guard Mike Pouncey is trying to get in shape so he is read if/when the lockout is lifted. “I’m just doing offensive line drills with the guys, and I’ll be going down to Miami in two weeks to do that stuff with my offensive line,” Pouncey told the Palm Beach Post’s Ben Volin. “But I’ve been talking to Jake [Long], [Richie] Incognito and Vernon [Carey]. I can’t wait to get down there and learn from them.” Volin also spoke with his mother, Lisa Webster, who noted that her son is fueled by some of the shots he’s taken from NFL Draft analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, who say he is not the same caliber player his brother center Maurkice Pouncey has become. “It pisses him off. They’re so competitive,” she said.

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FOUR BITS: Brantley; lacrosse wins big awards

1 » Taking a second look at spring practices across the country, ESPN Insider’s KC Joyner has come to a conclusion that may surprise some Florida Gators fans: redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played well. Here is what he saw by watching the film. To read the rest of The Football Scientist’s observations, click here (subscription req.).

It might seem a bit odd to be touting Brantley after a 4-for-14, 45-yard performance in the Orange and Blue game, but consider this: In a three-game sample review of Brantley’s 2010 season, he threw a stretch vertical pass (defined as thrown 20 or more yards downfield) only 5 percent of the time. This is a very low number and indicates the Gators were not very effective at even threatening the long pass.

In the spring game, four of Brantley’s aerials fell under the “stretch vertical” designation and one would have been completed for 40 yards had it not been for a very good defensive play. Brantley also did not force any of these downfield passes into coverage, so the downside on these throws was limited. It bodes well for what the Florida vertical game will be able to do in 2011 — not just for Brantley and Charlie Weis’ new downfield passing game, but for the playmakers in the Gators’ running game as well.

2 » No. 2/3 Florida lacrosse (14-2, 5-0 ALC) is getting prepared for the 2011 ALC Tournament set to begin on Thursday, but in the meantime the conference announced its awards on Tuesday and honored seven different Gators. Florida sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen was named Player of the Year and head coach Amanda O’Leary earned Coach of the Year honors. Also singled out by the conference were All-ALC First Team members Cullen, sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns and sophomore defender Sam Farrell as well as Second Team members sophomore M Janine Hillier, sophomore D Haydon Judge and sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher.

3 » Moving on with his professional career, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently working out in Los Angeles, CA and training for camps that he will compete in prior to the 2011 NBA Draft on June 23. The University of Florida’s website caught up with him to pick his brain on a number of topics including the realization that his college career has come to an end. “I can’t believe how fast everything went, it feels like I was just a freshman and now I’m graduated and trying to make a career out this,” he said. “It was a great experience; my time at UF was the best four years of my life. The relationships with my teammates and coaches, the entire staff, those memories will last a lifetime. […] A lot of people look at the NBA Draft night as an end point. For me it’s just a starting point. I know I have things to work on, but I’ve gotten good feedback from people, I’m going to work as hard as I can and do everything possible over these six weeks or so to put myself in the best position.”

4 » Another Gator has had a run-in with the law, but this one went head-on with an Alachua County deputy police officer.

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TWO BITS: Pouncey’s science, Noah’s dirty?

1 » Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey, likely to be a first-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday evening, recently took part in a segment for ESPN‘s Sports Science feature. You can view it below:

2 » Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger accused Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah of being a dirty player on Tuesday, saying he took cheap shots at some of his teammates during a recent game. “The refs never catch what he did … it’s cowardly,” Granter told ESPNChicago.com. “And I’m going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don’t think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand.” Asked his thoughts on the subject, Noah dismissed Granger’s claims and said he did nothing of the sort. “I played dirty? OK. I’m just trying to win basketball games, man,” he said. “It’s the name of the game. I’m just out there trying to do what I gotta do. Like I said, I give a lot of credit to their team. They play hard as hell. They were competitive. I don’t have anything bad to say about them. Everybody saw what happened out there. Now you want to call me a dirty player? I don’t think I’ve ever been a dirty player. It is what it is. It’s OK.”

Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who mentored Noah during back-to-back NCAA National Championship runs, said nothing could be further from the truth than Granger’s claims. “I don’t know Danny Granger at all, but I do know Joakim, and I do not agree with that one bit,” Donovan said during an interview with ESPN 1000 “Jo to me is the guy that I’ve got a tremendous amount of love and affection for. He’s one of those guys, that I think if you’re the opposing team, you don’t like him. […] I think the last thing I would say about him is that he is a dirty player, that’s the farthest thing from the truth, but again, I don’t know Danny Granger. I don’t know what the intent was of that, but I’ll tell you this, when you go against Joakim, you better bring it, because he is coming every single possession for every offensive, defensive rebound and run the floor. He’s going to do what he’s gotta do to out there to try and help his team win, and that could be misconstrued by Granger saying he’s dirty, but Joakim Noah is not a guy that I ever felt coaching or being around him that he was a dirty player.”

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Florida basketball will start 2011-12 season by playing in the Global Sports Shootout

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team will be participating in the five-team Global Sports Shootout tournament to begin the 2011-12 season along with Ohio State, North Florida, Jackson State and Wright State.

The event, which is a collection of games played at different arenas, will have Florida playing on the road against Ohio State, in a neutral site game against Wright State (Tampa, FL) and at home against North Florida and Jackson State.

UF and WSU will square-off on Nov. 21 at the St. Pete Times Forum. The dates and times for the remainder of the games are still being determined.

Wright State University is the only school to officially announce the event at this time.

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