The No. 13/14 Florida Gators ended their 2011-12 non-conference schedule with another double-digit victory, defeating UAB 79-61 on Tuesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media and shared his thoughts on the victory. He also spoke to the media Wednesday as part of the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly teleconference.
HOW FLORIDA CAN BECOME A TRULY “ELITE” TEAM
Following Tuesday’s game, Donovan was open and honest about what the Gators will have to do to be an elite this year, saying Florida must learn to sacrifice, appreciate their opponents and respect each other as capable, talented players.
“When you’re talking about being a really elite team, it means you have talent on your team. And we have talent on our team. So the first thing that needs to happen is they need to sacrifice. There is always a level of sacrifice. Any of the teams that go really far understand that there’s a level of sacrifice, that they can do more but they understand that them doing more creates less for the team and them actually doing a little bit less creates more for the team. There needs to be an appreciation for who you’re playing with and the fact that there’s good players around you and really admiring, respecting the job that they have in front of them and how they go about doing their job. And then I think there needs to be a level of emotion and passion and excitement and thankfulness for the opportunity to compete. People that can embrace those areas and those aspects have a chance to end up being very elite provided they have the talent level in place to be elite. Those are hard things to deal with.”
YOUNG IS A KEY BUT HE’S ALSO JUST DOING HIS JOB
As a team with a plethora of talented guards and a relatively thin frontcourt when it comes to size and strength, Florida is seen nationally as a squad that depends on sophomore center Patric Young to give them a low-post presence. That may be the case, but Donovan was quick to point out that Young – like every other player – is just doing his job and whatever he can to help the Gators win each game.
“We’re a team and everybody’s got to do their job and their part. Patric’s certainly has got a job and a part that he plays. There’s no question that his size and strength and things that he can do helps our team,” he said.
“We need Patric to play with the energy he’s always played with and continue to develop and get better. I think he’s in an entirely different role than he was a year ago because our frontcourt was so deep and he was a freshman last year and there was a learning curve he had to go through. Patric has been a great kid to coach because he’s eager to get better, he’s eager to improve. The team is important to him as is winning. We just need him to continually do his job night-in and night-out, and I think he’s committed to doing that.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan from Wednesday on having a few days off before the UT game: “Everybody right now is excited about league play starting. I know our guys are, too. At least playing last night we get a little bit of time here with the break to get prepared to play against Tennessee on the road. Obviously in this league I think every game, home or away, is a battle, and we know we got a great challenge ahead of us in Knoxville.”
» Donovan from Wednesday on if not playing for a division title anymore impacts him as a coach or the players who compete on the court: “One of the emphases that have decreased over the year is when you do win a conference championship and you win your league. Because of all the expansion and because of all that’s going on with schools moving into different leagues and so many teams in so many different leagues, there never really is anymore a true champion. I don’t think an East champion and a West champion alters our minds going into the season, but I think we’re all as coaches on board with trying to do what’s best for the league to help our league. Whoever wins the league this year, in a lot of respects none of our schedules are exactly the same. The only way to have a fair league champion is to play everybody twice, once home and once away. That’s certainly not going to happen with the amount of games that need to be played for people with what they’re trying to do with their non-conference schedule. The feeling was to move to one league and not have divisions was the best thing for the league. The coaches agreed that would be a good thing to do. Although we don’t have divisions, we still are playing divisional play so-to-speak with the way the schedules are set up. I don’t think we’ve ever gone into the season saying, ‘Let’s win the East.’ Certainly all of the schools are competing for a SEC championship and trying to compete for postseason play to continue to move forward, grow, develop and get better as the course of the season unfolds.”
» Donovan from Wednesday on how he feels about there not being a “true” champion anymore: “Things evolve and change. I remember when I was an assistant at Kentucky when it was still you played everybody twice, there was truly a champion and a lot of emphasis placed on that. Among the coaches and the players its important, but once you get through the regular season, a lot of the focus even goes beyond your conference tournament right into whose on the bubble, whose off the bubble, whose going to be a number one seed, how’s the seeding going to be. It’s almost as if everything is geared towards the NCAA Tournament. And I understand that. It certainly creates a lot of excitement for college basketball. I still think for the coaches and the players, competing for a league championship, playing for a league championship is very important. I don’t know if nationally in terms of fans and people, if people look at that as necessarily being a big deal.”