Inept offense nearly dooms Florida at Auburn

Posting the worst offensive performance since head coach Billy Donovan took over the team 15 years ago, the Florida Gators (14-4, 3-1 SEC) squeaked past the Auburn Tigers (7-11, 0-4 SEC) 45-40 on the road at the brand new Auburn Arena Thursday.

Equally inefficient in both halfs, Florida shot 28.3 percent from the field (15-of-53) and 19.2 percent from downtown (5-of-26). Luckily for the Gators, they limited a similarly poor-shooting Tigers squad to 37.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. Auburn also failed to capitalize on their free throw attempts, hitting only 1-of-8 from the charity stripe, while Florida was a surprising 10-for-14 from the line including 6-for-7 in the first half.

The Gators led for the first 7:20 of the game until the Tigers took off on a 10-0 run to go up 18-11. Florida turned the ball over nine times in the first half, missed 14 of their last 16 shots and trailed Auburn 24-23 in what looked to be their worst start to a game this season since posting only 20 points against then-No. 5 Kansas State on Dec. 18.

UF started the second half in similar fashion, missing their first eight shots from downtown, first three from the charity stripe and 12 of their first 16 attempts.

Junior point guard Erving Walker ‘s three-pointer with 7:16 remaining in the game gave the Gators a 35-34 lead that was handed back on a wide-open dunk just one play later. Trying to keep Florida in the game with a high-energy effort, senior forward Alex Tyus was sent to the line and made two free throws to put UF up 37-36 with 4:17 left; once again the Gators handed the lead right back to the Tigers allowing them to score four-straight points to take a 40-37 lead.

Down three with 2:08 to go, Donovan took a 30 second timeout; sophomore guard Kenny Boynton nailed a trey on the following possession to tie the game at 40. Walker then stepped up with three consecutive plays that wound up sealing the game.

Stealing the ball on an inbounds play with 1:20 left, Walker drained a three. On the next possession he drew a charge in the paint to give the ball back to Florida. He wound up taking an ill-advised jump shot and turning the ball over on the next possession but would hit two free throws to ice the contest and conclude a game-ending 8-0 run.

Walker wound up leading UF with a game-high 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Senior F Chandler Parsons and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin each grabbed a game-high six rebounds helping their team out-rebound the opposition 34-27.

Florida hopes to turn things around on Saturday as they return home to face Arkansas at 8 p.m. The game will air live on FSN.

Photo Credit: Todd J. Van Emst/Associated Press

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SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

1 » The No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and softball programs found out Thursday that each would have four games featured live on the ESPN family of networks during their respective 2011 regular seasons. Florida baseball – which will be featured on ESPNU’s Thursday Night Baseball Game of the Week with their contest at Arkansas on May 5 at 7:30 p.m. – will also face Georgia (away) on April 16 at 2 p.m. on ESPNU, Alabama (home) on April 23 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, and Arkansas (away) on May 7 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Gators softball will have four home games aired live. Their back-to-back games against Alabama on April 23 (4 p.m.) and April 24 (1 p.m.) will air on ESPN2 and ESPNU, respectively, while their consecutive contests against Tennessee on May 7 (12 p.m.) and May 8 (3 p.m.) will be featured on ESPN and ESPNU. All games airing on ESPN or ESPN2 will also be simulcast on ESPN3.com.

2 » Florida softball also found out Thursday that their incoming 2011 recruiting class has been ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN/RISE. The Gators are bringing in six freshmen including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ), UTL Brianna Little (Middleburg, FL) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA). Wrote ESPN: “The Gators had a lot of pressure to bring in a dynamic recruiting class with the group they have leaving this year, and they certainly pulled it off. They bring in a big class of seven athletes that includes two dominating pitchers in Lauren Haeger and Alyssa Bache, power at the plate with big hitters like Bailey Castro and Briana Little, and speed in the infield with tough players like Jessie Damico, Sami Fagan and Katie Medina. The Gators have the best recruiting class of the year, hands down.”

More on Tim Tebow, UF basketball and Jacoby Brissett…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

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1/18: Donovan on free throw shooting, maturity

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability on Tuesday.

IT’S CALLED THE “CHARITY STRIPE” FOR A REASON

The fact that Florida is a poor free throw shooting team (65 percent combined, 54.9 percent from the starting frontcourt) is quite evident to Donovan. That is why he had his players take over 100 shots each from the line on Tuesday and expects them to put up over 500 per person this week. Yet while he provides a punishment when they miss (running) and expects improvement by simulating game situations as much as possible, he realizes that free throw shooting is mostly mental and outside his range of power.

“When a player goes up there to the free throw line, really you don’t have any control. If I could guide the ball into the rim, I would do it. But [coaches] don’t have any control,” Donovan said. “It’s a mentality. It’s a confidence. It’s wanting to be up there on the line in those situations. You fix it by getting in the gym, by constantly working on it, by taking it serious and by having a level of competitive substance that, ‘I’m going to go up there and knock down two free throws.’ There’s a mentality walking up there saying, ‘I’m going to put the game away. I’m going to do this.’ We’re going to be in more situations like that. We’re going to have to make free throws. Guys have got to walk up, man up and make shots. They got to be able to do that.”

He also provided additional thoughts about free throw shooting.

“When a golfer swings a club, right as he hits the ball he knows whether it’s good or bad. They just know. I’ve coached players where they have no understanding or idea why they’re missing,” he said. “My biggest thing [as a player] was just to focus on what’s going on right now. [When] you miss free throws, it’s the same shot, but there’s different circumstances. That’s why I try to create as close to a game-like atmosphere in practice as I can, because I’m never going to be able to simulate the crowd [or] home court.

“So much of it is an understanding and a maturity. If you’re shooting a free throw in the gym at practice, or you’re shooting a free throw in the game, it’s the same exact shot. What happens is, mentally, young guys create a bunch of drama in their head. They’re never thinking that way when they’re practicing. A free throw in the first five minutes of the game, that people would say have no barring on the outcome of the game, is the same exact shot at the end of the game except you’re creating this element around you. Trying to help those guys see that, identify that and understand that is important.”

LACK OF DEFENSE WAS A HINDRANCE

Though the Gators’ inability to hit shots from the charity stripe doomed them in the second half, Donovan believes the hole his team’s defense put them in to start the game made it difficult to win from the get-go. He thinks the poor defense, at least partially, stemmed from overconfidence coming out of a number of big-time victories.

“There’s been some slippage,” he said. “The one thing that has got to get better is our maturity in terms of understanding the winning aspect of what goes into it. ‘How can that be with some older guys?’ When you win, you have to look at where you got to get better. Winning is the best way you want to learn. It’s not fun having to learn through losing. Because we scored points, because we won in overtime against Tennessee, because we won on the road at Xavier, some of that stuff gets lost.

“Now all of a sudden we get into a situation against South Carolina in the first half where we shoot 30 percent from the field and we shoot a very low percentage from the three-point line. We gave up big percentages from the field. You’re going to be down double-digit points. If we would have played defense in the first half like we did in the second half, we probably could have weathered and battled that storm.”

QUOTES

On junior point guard Erving Walker missing his one-and-one after getting into a shoving fight: “You have to have the mentality to take a step back and move to the next play and not let that linger in there.”

On playing well enough to win: “We need to come out and play well. It’s not even about the result, because you can win a game and not play well. If we go out and play like we’re capable of playing with the passion and the intensity that we need to play with, then we got to live with the result. It’s understandable why you got swallow the result when you don’t do what you need to do to win the game.”

On getting up for a “lesser” opponent: “Every competitive challenge is totally different. You try to play as consistently or close to your potential and ability [as possible]. That’s what you’re trying to do.”

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Pouncey, Wright, Noah, Horford

1 » After head coach Josh McDaniels was fired, murmurs surrounded the Denver Broncos specifically about whether or not his replacement would be a fan of rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Now that John Fox has been hired as the team’s new head coach, questions about Tebow’s safety in Mile High have been quieted. The issue now is whether or not he will be tabbed as the team’s starter in 2011. “Just like any position, they’ll compete and we’ll go from there,” said Fox on the Dan Patrick Show when discussing Tebow and veteran Kyle Orton. “It’s too early for me to say. I’m going to evaluate guys on grass and we’ll have to see when we get those opportunities.” Most of Denver is calling for Tebow to be given the reigns to the offense after he started the final three games of the 2010 season; Fox hopes to be convinced of the same next year.

2 » The Beaver County Times sat down with Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey and pick his brain about the team’s playoff run. One of two Florida Gators rookies remaining in the NFL Playoffs, Pouncey was candid in his answers. “It’s so much better,” he said of winning an NFL playoff game compared to playing in big games at Florida. “There is so much more on the line. In college, it was awesome. We had a great group of guys. But it was amazing. It was unbelievable. Man, our fans were awesome. For them to be out there with that much energy, it was crazy.” Pouncey also said winning a Super Bowl would be “the greatest accomplishment ever.”

3 » Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris injured his hip in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, paving the way for Major Wright to see extensive playing time against the Seattle Seahawks. Though Harris will be back against the Green Bay Packers, Wright is expected to see more playing time than usual in relief of his teammate.

4 » Catching up with injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who is currently on the outside looking in, NBA.com reports that the former Gators star will have a pin removed from his injured right thumb in a week’s time and will finally begin rehabilitation on the thumb shortly after. “It’s been long and sometimes frustrating not being able to be out there with my teammates,” Noah said on Monday. “Physically, I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and working out. I feel strong and I’ll be ready to get back and help the team. I’m just trying to control what I can control right now. I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before that because I would love to play in that game.” The article also discusses Noah inviting a dozen children to a game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, his thoughts on point guard Derrick Rose and how good he believes the team can be this season.

5 » Speaking of former Florida stars in the NBA, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford is once again having an impressive season. In addition to averaging a career-high 16.5 points per game, Horford set a new career-high in blocks with seven on Monday night. He also scored 23 points (on 10-of-16 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists in his team’s victory against the Sacramento Kings.

6 » Swimmers Gemma Spofforth (who graduated in December) and senior Conor Dwyer have been named the 2010 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top female and male student-athlete who excels in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Spofforth is the third woman to win the award in back-to-back seasons (Angie McGinnis-2006-07, Nicole Haislett-1992-93); she and Tebow (only three-time winner) were honored in 2009. Dwyer is the third men’s swimmer to get the award (Ryan Lochte-2004, Greg Burgess-1993).

Photo Credit: NBA.com

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Loss on Saturday keeps Gators outside Top 25

Having won five-straight games in impressive fashion, the Florida Gators were making a case to hop back into the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls…that is until they fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 72-69 in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Instead of cracking the Top 25 for the first time in a month, Florida (13-4, 2-1 SEC) was once again on the outside looking in when the latest polls were released on Monday.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 10 (1,048)No. 8 (550)-
2W 77-69 vs. North Florida1-0No. 11 (995)No. 10 (535)-
3L 53-59 at No. 20 Wisconsin
W 86-56 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
2-1No. 16 (619)No. 14 (359)-
4W 67-53 vs. Southern
W 79-59 vs. MTSU
4-1No. 15 (729)No. 13 (395)-
5W 86-60 at Jacksonville
W 67-66 vs. Florida State
6-1No. 15 (758)No. 12 (426)-
6L 64-65 at No. 12 UConn6-2No. 19 (434)No. 19 (258)-
7W 67-61 vs. No. 13 Kansas7-2No. 16 (699)No. 17 (296)-
8W 77-75 vs. Memphis
W 66-49 vs. Fresno State
9-2No. 13 (881)No. 14 (383)-
9W 76-34 vs. Savannah State10-2No. 12 (915)No. 13 (413)-
10W 67-58 vs. Richmond11-2No. 10 (1,052)No. 11 (473)12
11W 74-58 vs. South Carolina
W-OT 84-82 at Arkansas
13-2
(2-0 SEC)
No. 7
(1,205)
No. 7
(573)
8
12W 72-50 vs. Georgia
W 68-61 at Auburn
15-2
(4-0 SEC)
No. 6
(1,303)
No. 6
(639)
8
13W 68-62 at Alabama
W 67-41 vs. Tennessee
17-2
(6-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,436)
No. 4
(694)
5
14W 62-51 at Mississippi State
W 69-36 vs. Texas A&M
19-2
(8-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,482)
No. 4
(720)
3
15W 68-58 vs. Missouri
W 78-69 vs. Alabama
21-2
(10-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,477)
No. 4
(711)
5
16W 67-58 at Tennessee
W 69-59 at Kentucky
23-2
(12-0 SEC)
No. 2
(1,543)
No. 2
(752)
4
17W 71-66 vs. Auburn
W 75-71 at Ole Miss
25-2
(14-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,606)
No. 1
(791)
3
18W 57-54 at Vanderbilt
W 79-61 vs. LSU
27-2
(16-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,606)
No. 1
(793)
3
19W 72-46 at South Carolina
W 84-65 vs. Kentucky
29-2
(18-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,610)
No. 1
(793)
2
Post-
season
W 72-49 vs. Missouri
W 56-49 vs. Tennessee
W 61-60 vs. Kentucky
32-2
(18-0 SEC)
(3-0 SECT)
No. 1
(1,610)
No. 1
(794)
1
FinalW 67-55 vs. Albany
W 61-45 vs. Pittsburgh
W 79-68 vs. UCLA
W 62-52 vs. Dayton
L 53-63 vs. UConn
36-3
(18-0 SEC)
(3-0 SECT)
(4-1 NCAAT)
-No. 3
(735)
-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Duke (31*), Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Purdue, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisville, Washington, Georgetown, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Central Florida, Temple, Michigan State, Minnesota
+ Florida received 20 voting points, good for 33rd overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (28*), Kansas (2*), Syracuse (1*), Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas A&M, Texas, Kentucky, Purdue, Missouri, Louisville, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Washington, Saint Mary’s, Illinois, Georgetown, Kansas State, Arizona
+ Florida received eight voting points, good for 38th overall

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Duke (65*), Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Purdue, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri, Illinois, Washington, Louisville, Temple, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Georgetown, Central Florida, Georgia, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 110 voting points, good for 29th overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (49*), Kansas (6*), Syracuse (8*), Duke (1*), Pittsburgh (1*), San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Missouri, Purdue, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Washington, West Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Georgetown, Illinois, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 42 voting points, good for 35th overall

* Numbers represent first-place votes.

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1/15: Donovan on Florida’s home loss to USC

Fighting back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead late in the second half, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) failed to finish their comeback attempt against the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC), falling to their Southeastern Conference foe 72-69 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to say about his team’s performance after the game. We have compiled some of the key notes and quotes.

FREE THROW WOES PLAGUE GATORS

The Gators defense failed to get necessary stops at the end of the game Saturday, but ask anyone who was watching the contest and they will tell you it was Florida’s poor free throw shooting that took away every opportunity that presented itself. UF missed their final five free throws including three inside the final four minutes of the game. “The thing that killed us the last four or five minutes of the game was we didn’t make free throws. The free throw shooting hurt us,” Donovan admitted. “I try to create some level of pressure when they’re shooting free throws [in practice]. And we’ve been doing it for a while. You try to do it in practice.”

Though junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the front end of a one-and-one, it was the Gators’ frontcourt that really struggled from the charity stripe. “When you look at your frontcourt and those guys go 6-for-14 from the free throw line, it’s hard,” he said. “A lot of times being a great free throw shooting team has to do with how well your frontcourt players are shooting because they have the most opportunities to get fouled because they are playing closer to the rim more often than not.”

OFFENSE HAS IMPROVED AS DEFENSE WILTS

Struggling to post at least 70 points for seven-straight games over approximately a month, Florida found some offense as the year came to a close and a new one began. Since Dec. 31, the Gators have posted totals of 71, 84, 77, 81 and 69 points in consecutive games. While their offensive improvement has garnered much attention, their defensive struggled have been overlooked for the same reason. Florida has allowed opponents to score at least 70 points in three-straight games after only permitting that many twice in the previous 14 contests.

“The one thing that was being lost in [the offensive slump] was the fact that we were really defending people. We were keeping people in the 50s and low 60s,” Donovan said. “Ever since we started making some shots, our defense has really, really dropped off. People didn’t notice because the ball was going in the basket.”

Donovan added that the Gators “defensive intensity” was the most disappointing thing to him about his team’s performance in the first half, something that led to them being in a double-digit hole that was tough to fight out of throughout the remainder of the contest.

QUOTES

On if the team appeared laid back after a big win like they have been previously: “I didn’t feel that way in this game.”

On first half struggles: “I think they blocked eight shots in the first half. And then we come into the half and [Alex] Tyus and [Vernon] Macklin are 3-for-13 from the field. Our lack of understanding about how we needed to attack them offensively… We had way too many shots blocked. We had guys driving down the lane without a purpose, getting caught up in the air. We didn’t make the right decision with the ball.”

On why sophomore F Erik Murphy (foot) did not play: “He was available. He practiced sparingly the last two days. With the way the game was going, I didn’t want to put him in that situation. This is a better week for him going into the Auburn game because we got Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday where he can get back. It was probably better for his health that he didn’t play.”

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Free throws doom Gators in loss to Gamecocks

Rallying back from a double-digit deficit they were stuck in most of the game, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) eventually fell 72-69 to the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL after missing three free throws inside the final four minutes of the game.

The Gators were only 12-for-22 from the line as a team and failed in their bid for a come-from-behind win even though they were provided ample opportunities as the second half drew to a close. Florida missed five-straight free throws including four on three-point plays, and junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the first shot of a one-and-one.

The team’s leading scorer and best free throw shooter, Walker finished the game with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting but missed two key free throws. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, the team’s second leading scorer, was an anemic 3-for-10 (1-of-4 from downtown) with nine points.

Tied at 18 in the first half, South Carolina went on a 15-2 run over five minutes to take a game-high 13-point lead. The Gamecocks did a great job of keeping Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin out of the paint in the opening half, limiting him to two baskets on seven shot attempts.

South Carolina kept their double-digit lead for most of the second half, that is until Florida went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 59. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and Boynton hit back-to-back treys, Walker followed up with a layup, and senior F Alex Tyus added one of his own to complete the run.

The Gamecocks responded and went back up 63-59, but Walker drained a three from the corner to bring the game within one with 1:40 remaining. South Carolina F Sam Muldrow hit a dagger trey, and G Bruce Ellington connected on a runner to force fouls and free throws with the clock winding down.

Ellington led the Gamecocks with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Three other South Carolina starters, including Muldrow, scored 10, and the team connected on 73.3 percent of their free throw attempts.

Gators freshman C Patric Young, who played 19 minutes off the bench, scored a career-high 12 points while going 5-for-6 from the field. Macklin finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tyus added 10 points.

Florida, which had won five-straight games and eight of their last nine contests, had both streaks snapped while losing their third home game of the season. The Gators failed to score 70 points for the first time since Dec. 22, 2010, and were out-rebounded (36-32) for only the third time this season.

UF hopes to rebound from their tough home loss as they travel to Auburn for their next game on Thursday at 7 p.m. The contest will air live on ESPN.

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Donovan, former assistants share common bond

During a media availability in November, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan discussed how a common bond will unite him forever with two former assistants – Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant.

“Not to get too personal or morbid, but I lost a daughter. Anthony Grant lost a son. John Pelphrey lost a son. They’re all buried out on 43rd [Street] together. All their graves are right there together,” Donovan explained. “So there are things that have happened over a 13-14-15-year period for the four of us that, no question, we will be ever interwoven in terms of relationships, things that have happened.”

Yahoo! Sports’ Jason King ran with the topic and put together a fantastic feature story published in the organization’s new online magazine on Wednesday.

“No staff,” Grant says of the trio’s related struggles, “has ever experienced what we experienced. What happened with all of us … I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

King takes a deeper look at the story behind each coach’s loss and how the pain helped bring them together in a way few things in life can. Below are selections from the story.

November 2, 2000

Donovan stopped at a red light.

“I’m sitting there,” Donovan says, “and I look over at this church, and there’s a sign on the marquee that says, ‘God is Good All of the Time.’ I kind of shook my head and thought, ‘What’s good about this?’
“But then I sat there a little longer, and I said to myself, ‘I’ve got an incredible wife, and right now I’m going home to three healthy kids.’ A lot of times, when bad things happen in your life, you fail to remember all the good things that are in your life, too.

“At that moment, a calm came over me, a peace that made me realize that, although this was a terrible loss, I was still very, very blessed.” […]

February 6, 1999

“When you’re young, you think it’s easy to have a baby,” says Grant, who was 29 at the time. “Your wife gets pregnant and you assume there aren’t going to be any issues. Then something happens like what happens to us, and your whole world changes.”

“God doesn’t make mistakes,” Grant says. “All things work for the good. All things happen for a reason. Maybe what I went through enabled me to help Billy.”

Indeed, nearly two years later, Grant was in his office when Donovan’s secretary notified staff members about Jacqueline’s death. Grant said he darted to his car, picked up his wife at the tennis court and drove straight to the hospital to offer support. […]

August 22, 2003

But it certainly helped to have friends like Donovan and Grant. Other than his own father, Pelphrey calls Donovan the most influential male in his life. His daughter’s full name is Anne Marie Grace Donovan Pelphrey. And his oldest son, Jackson, was born on the same day as Brian Donovan, Billy’s youngest son.

“My wife and his wife were in the hospital at the same time,” Donovan says. “John and I drove up there right after my first SEC game (as Florida’s head coach) and they induced labor on both of them at the same time. We’ve been through a lot. We were together when life was brought into this world. And we’ve both experienced tragedy, too.” […]

Under the shade of a large pine tree, in graves about 50 yards away from the noise and traffic on NW 23rd Avenue, rest the children of three Division I head basketball coaches, three SEC competitors, three best friends forever bound by the most tragic of circumstances.

When Jacqueline died in 2000, Donovan suggested that Grant move his son, Brandon, from a different part of the cemetery to an available grave just a few feet away. Three years later, it seemed right for Pelphrey to bury John Patrick in the same location.

“I’m not sure what term to use,” Pelphrey says, “but it’s certainly humbling when you walk out there and see all those headstones so close together.”

Grant says: “It’s special to have them all together like that. It’s very special.”

Read on ThePostGame: Billy Donovan’s Secret Sorrow

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