1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel on Sunday earned his second PGA Tour victory, his first in one year and five months, after shooting -14 and winning the 2014 BMW Championship. Just last week, Horschel choked on the 18th hole during his final round at the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship, finishing in a three-way tie for second behind Chris Kirk of Georgia. He did not make the same mistake on Sunday, shooting -1 over the final 12 holes to best two-time Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson, also a UGA alum. Horschel collected $1.44 million on Sunday to go along with the $579,000 he banked last week, bringing his season-long earnings to nearly $3.4 million.
Florida basketball staff reloads
Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan knew for a while that he would have two staffers leaving the program this offseason, and it all became a reality last week when assistant to the head coach Mark Daigneault and video coordinator Oliver Winterbone both departed to join the Oklahoma City Thunder organization.
Daigneault was hired as the head coach of the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the 66ers, while Winterbone accepted a basketball information analyst position with Oklahoma City’s front office. (The 66ers are moving from Tulsa to Oklahoma City this season.)
Donovan did not wait long to fill the staffing holes and keep his machine running.
On Tuesday, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman reported that Donovan will hire veteran assistant coach Billy Schmidt to fill the off-court assistant position vacated by Daigneault.
Schmidt has spent the last 11 seasons coaching under Brian Gregory including eight at Dayton and the last three at Georgia Tech. He was Gregory’s first hire, joining the Flyers after spending nine seasons coaching in major conferences. Schmidt’s journey began as a manager with Wake Forest (1988-92) but continued with stops at Tennessee (1994-97), Northwestern (1997-2000) and under Tommy Amaker both at Seton Hall (2000) and Michigan (2001-03).
OnlyGators.com learned Monday evening that Donovan has also desired to hire Peter Gash to replace Winterbone as video coordinator.
1 » Former Florida Gators forward Casey Prather has been given a second chance at latching on with an NBA team after agreeing to join the Phoenix Suns in training camp on a non-guaranteed contract. Phoenix currently has 13 guaranteed contracts on its roster as well as one open roster spot. Prather will be competing with veteran center Earl Barron for that job. After spending the month of July playing for the Atlanta Hawks during NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, Nevada, Prather was not retained or signed by another team. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 20 minutes per game.
Both of Prather’s fellow undrafted teammates out of Florida, C Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin, have landed professional contracts. Young signed a two-year, $1.35 million contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, while Wilbekin inked a deal with the Cairns Taipans of the Australian Basketball League.
1 » Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons did not make it through the last round of USA Basketball roster cuts ahead of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup this summer. He was widely was expected to make the 12-man roster, but ESPN.com reported Saturday that he was “unexpectedly squeezed out by [USA Basketball's] desire to field as big a team as possible.” Parsons appeared to express his disappointment with the decision by posting the below picture on Instagram. He also released this statement via Twitter: “Thankful for the opportunity to try and play for my country. A great experience I’ll never forget. Wish them nothing but the best of luck.”
Two four-year staff members of the Florida Gators basketball team will leave their jobs to take positions with the NBA‘s Oklahoma City Thunder.
On Friday, the Thunder announced that Mark Daigneault, an assistant to head coach Billy Donovan, would take over the head coaching job of Oklahoma City’s NBA D-League affiliate, the 66ers.
“Mark has placed a high value on development throughout his career and we feel that he is well aligned with the goals of our organization,” said team senior vice president and general manager Sam Presti. “His experience at Florida under Coach Donovan has provided him the platform to apply his intelligence and relationship skills to help strengthen the program. We are excited about Mark joining the organization and continuing his professional growth.”
Daigneault, 29, was not a court coach at Florida but instead helped players with their off-the-court needs and scouted prospects. He also worked with Donovan as a USA Basketball staffer, serving the same role. Prior to his time at UF, Daigneault worked with Connecticut’s basketball program as a student and spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Holy Cross.
1 » The 2014-15 athletic season officially kicks off for the Florida Gators on Friday at 7 p.m. when the No. 8 Florida soccer team hosts the Miami Hurricanes at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Gators soccer will be kicking off its 20th season, all of which have been led by head coach Becky Burleigh. Florida returns all 11 starters from 2013 with sophomore forward Savannah Jordan looking to build on her incredible freshman campaign. UF shared the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championship with Texas A&M and has been voted as the preseason favorite to repeat. Florida has won 13 SEC regular-season titles including seven of the last eight dating back to 2006.
2 » The school will be holding its first-ever Rally in the Swamp student pep rally on Sunday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., six days before the Gators kick off their 2014 season against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30. The event will include “Florida cheerleaders and dazzlers, mascots, head coach Will Muschamp and members of the Gator[s] football team.” While there, “students will learn some of the great traditions” of the program, distribute student section t-shirts, win prizes and eat pizza. As OnlyGators.com first reported on Wednesday, there are approximately 2,000 student tickets still remaining out of the school’s allotment of 21,500. According to executive associate athletics director Mike Hill, Florida has sold out its student section every season during his 21-year tenure with the program.
Couple thousand student season tickets remain unsold
Attendance at sporting events is a growing problem across the nation, and the Florida Gators have been attempting to do whatever they can to try and address the issue in order to reach full capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium each week.
Florida has wired the stadium to drastically improve cellular phone reception (though high-speed wireless internet, at a cost of about $3 million, has not yet been implemented throughout the stadium), begun offering more affordable tickets to recent graduates, opened spring and fall practices to all comers and even formed a council of boosters and students to ensure the program is doing everything it can to get its tickets sold.
UF also worked with the Southeastern Conference and its television partners to ensure that its early-season games were played in the late afternoon or evening, rather than the grueling early-afternoon heat.
Unfortunately for the Gators, the problem has only continued to grow. What was once limited to declining season ticket sales from boosters, those unwilling to spend thousands of dollars to get a couple of seats in The Swamp on Sunday, has now jumped across the field to the student section.
A Florida spokesman told OnlyGators.com last week that the school had “a couple thousand” student season tickets unsold with just two weeks to go before the start of the season. Pressed for a more specific number with 10 days left, the spokesman divulged this week that there are approximately 2,000 student season tickets available (as of press time) with that number shrinking minimally each day.
1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin has found a professional home, according to RealGM.com, which reported Monday that he signed a one-year deal with the Cairns Taipans of Australia’s National Basketball League. Wilbekin is not currently on the roster and his signing has not yet been reported by another outlet, however, it is supposed to contain an out clause that would allow him to leave for the NBA if a team makes an overture for his services before the end of December.
Update: Head coach Billy Donovan, during a speaking engagement with the Atlanta Gator Club on Monday, confirmed Wilbekin’s destination.
2 » Beat writers that cover the Miami Dolphins believe former Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis may be on the verge of losing his job but not due to anything he is doing on the field. In fact, that is exactly the problem, as Sturgis suffered yet another groin injury early in training camp and aggravated that injury this past week. The Dolphins brought in third-year K John Potter to challenge Sturgis, and he impressed during Miami’s second preseason game by drilling field goals from 48 and 51 yards out. Sturgis struggled during his rookie season but was also put in tough situations. Before he got injured, the Dolphins had not brought another kicker into training camp as competition.