Billy Donovan named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year

In 15 seasons with the Florida Gators, head coach Billy Donovan has won two NCAA National Championships, coached in three national title games, been victorious in three Southeastern Conference Tournaments and captured four SEC regular season championships. He was even presented the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2010 to honor his many accomplishments.

On Tuesday, Donovan received an award that has escaped him his entire Florida career as he was finally selected as 2011 SEC Coach of the Year by his peers.

This season, Donovan took a team that was projected to win the conference but saw themselves unranked when SEC action began to a 13-3 record, No. 12 ranking and their first East division and SEC regular season championships since 2007.

“I am extremely humbled to be named SEC Coach of the Year by my peers. This league has outstanding coaches and a number of deserving candidates to win the award,’’ he said in a statement. “I’m fortunate and blessed to have a great group of players, assistant coaches and staff – this honor is more a reflection of their work and effort than anything that I have done.’’

His main competition for the award, former Gators assistant and current Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, also completed a fantastic year. With Alabama projected to finish third in the SEC West during the preseason, Grant fueled his team to a 12-4 conference record and their first division title since 2005.

“When there is a team that maybe exceeds expectations or maybe a team that comes out of nowhere or nobody thought they would be what they end up being, immediately that’s the Coach of the Year,” Donovan said last week. “If you’re asking me, Anthony Grant’s the Coach of the Year.”

Always complimentary of his fellow coaches and former assistants, Donovan in many ways would have been just as happy to see Grant take home the award. In fact, individual honors are not in Donovan’s wheelhouse, he prefers to win championships.

When Donovan eventually hangs it up, he will likely be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in all major SEC coaching categories to Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp. Tuesday he lost his lead in one category – being the longest-tenured and most successful head coach in the conference who had not previously earned a SEC Coach of the Year award.

OGGOA RELATED: Chandler Parsons named 2011 SEC Player of the Year

Photo Credit: Unknown

3/7: Donovan on SEC Tournament and winning

No. 12/12 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) 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 Monday.

CUTTING DOWN THE NETS

Florida did not get the opportunity to cut down the nets at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN seeing as it was Senior Day for the Vanderbilt Commodores, but the team each received a piece of one Monday while also being sized for their Southeastern Conference Championship rings.

SEC BRACKET A NON-ISSUE

Placed in the “bottom” portion of the 2011 SEC Tournament bracket, UF will receive a bye and face either Tennessee [E5] or Arkansas [W4] in quarterfinals action; should they advance, they will likely face either Mississippi State [W2] or Vanderbilt [E3]. Asked about the difficulty of his team’s bracket, Donovan shrugged off the match-ups noting that they simply do not matter. “At this time of year, it doesn’t make a difference. There’s a lot of familiarity amongst [the conference],” he said. “Every game right now adds somewhat of a new life, new challenge for everybody. The regular season is over with, so everybody is basically starting fresh going into Atlanta.”

MO’ MONEY FOR BILLY D

The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway points out that Donovan will be awarded a $50,000 bonus for winning the conference championship, a $37,500 bonus for earning a berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament and could have more money coming to him in the very near future. Outstanding bonuses he can achieve this season include $37,500 for reaching the Sweet 16, $25,000 on top of that for getting to the Final Four and an additional $150,000 if the Gators win the whole shebang. Should Florida finish in the Associated Press’s Top 10, he would grab $50,000 more.

KEEPING THE FOCUS ON WHAT’s IMPORTANT

Florida has already earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament, something the team has been unable to feel comfortable about over the prior three seasons. With that in mind, Donovan is confident his team will not overlook the upcoming SEC Tournament even though there is a bigger one in their future.

“You go in with an understanding that you can’t get to Saturday without taking care of Friday. We’re going to approach it the same way we always have done. These guys have done a pretty good job of competitively taking on what’s in front of them, and the SEC Tournament is in front of us right now,” he said.

“Winning has been important to these guys. When you win at a high level, it opens up a tremendous amount of doors for opportunity. We have been able to get better because there has been a focus on what we had to do to win and get better.”

DON’T FALL IN LOVE JUST YET…

Though Donovan is sure the team is focused and ready to prepare properly for the challenges in front of them, he continues to provide the same cautionary statement he has all season: “Don’t fall in love.”

“What I mean by that is: I love coaching these guys, they’re great. But the ebbs and flows of big win, tough loss, play great…we still have not conquered that, and that’s still a challenge,” Donovan said. “We’re not quite where we need to be, so I’m not willing to get over to that side. I do love them. I love coaching them. They need to understand that when you win like these guys have won, it becomes more difficult – it does not become easier. In a lot of ways, they’re in uncharted territory.”

Asked when he fell in love with the 2006 and 2007 national title teams, Donovan thought it through before responding. “I was a little bit leery, even the first year. I fell in love with their work ethic, unselfishness and unity as a team,” he said. “I didn’t feel that was ever going to be an issue because I saw how connected they all were. I was concerned about the lack of experience and going through what they were going through.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 3/7: Donovan on SEC Tournament and winning

FOUR BITS: Alvarez, bat saver, Brewer, Johnson

1 » The National Football Foundation announced Monday that former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez (1969-71) has been added to the ballot of 79 players eligible for the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame. Florida’s all-time leading receiver, having compiled 2,563 yards during his career, Alvarez has never been up for the award before. He was the Gators’ top pass catcher every year he was in school and still holds records in passes caught in a single game (15 vs. Miami, 1969) and most 100-yard games in a season (8). Alvarez is second in UF history for career receptions (172), yards in a season (1,329), yards in a game (246) and 100-yard games (13).

2 » There are plenty of Florida fans from Brooklyn, NY but only one, Mitch Davie, made the news over the weekend. Attending an Atlanta Braves vs. Toronto Blue Jays spring training game, Davie saved a few fans and earned himself a souvenir by grabbing bat flying through the air off the hands of Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla with a single hand…all while not spilling a drop of his Red Stripe beer (see below).

3 » Now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, former Gators forward Corey Brewer has already seen two games of action with the team. Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Wade took a look at how Brewer’s addition will add an increased level of flexibility for Dallas as they look to make a run to the NBA title.

On nights where Dallas is faced with the difficult task of contending with a Kobe Bryant or a Kevin Durant, Brewer is your option. If they don’t feel like a Nic Batum or a Grant Hill will kill them, then Peja starts and keeps the floor properly spaced. They key to all this working is that the Mavs keep winning so that everyone stays content in their role. It was also critical that Brewer signs a multi-year deal so that he knows his playing time or lack thereof, depending on the opponent, doesn’t impact where he’ll be next year. Brewer could also see minutes at the two, though that seems less likely considering the giant logjam in the backcourt that has already squeezed Stephenson out of the mix.

4 » Also last week, The Times and Democrat reported that Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan was in the area that Tuesday take a look at four-star 2012 power forward Brice Johnson (Cordova, SC), who is reportedly favoring UF and Clemson.

Photo Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press

SEC champion Gators up to No. 12 in Top 25 polls

Closing out the regular season with back-to-back impressive wins to notch their first Southeastern Conference Championship since 2007, the Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) defeated the SEC West-leading Alabama Crimson Tide and Vanderbilt Commodores last week. The Gators were rewarded with an improved standing among both the coaches and media voters when the polls were released Monday afternoon.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (17), Kansas (14), Brigham Young, Duke, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Notre Dame, Texas, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, St. John’s, Connecticut, Georgetown, Arizona, Villanova, Vanderbilt, Utah State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Missouri, George Mason
+ Florida received 337 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (17), Kansas (14), Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Duke, San Diego State, North Carolina, Brigham Young, Purdue, Texas, Syracuse, Florida, Wisconsin, Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Utah State, St. John’s, Connecticut, Xavier, Texas A&M, Georgetown, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Temple
+ Florida received 456 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (45), Kansas (14), Brigham Young (5), Duke (1), Pittsburgh, Purdue, Texas, Notre Dame, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, St. John’s, Connecticut, Georgetown, Arizona, Villanova, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Xavier, Texas A&M, Utah State
+ Florida received 688 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (52), Kansas (13), Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Purdue, Texas, Syracuse, Florida, Wisconsin, Louisville, Kentucky, Arizona, St. John’s, Xavier, Kansas State, West Virginia, Connecticut, Georgetown, Utah State, Temple, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 931 voting points

Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

FOUR BITS: basketball, softball, gym, tennis, lax

1 » Participating in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament beginning on Thursday, Florida Gators women’s basketball did a great job beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 68-59 in the event’s opening round but ended up falling to the top-seeded No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols 92-75 in quarterfinal action on Friday. Florida (18-14) saw five players reach double-digit point totals in the opening game with sophomore forward Jennifer George, junior guard Deana Allen and redshirt junior F Ndidi Madu scoring 12 a piece while freshman G Jaterra Bonds and redshirt junior G Jordan Jones each posted 11. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Lady Vols routed them for the third time this season, beating them by 17 Friday after wins of 43 and 22 earlier in the year. Allen (13), Madu (13), Bonds (12), Jones (10) all scored double-digit points while junior G Lanita Bartley led the team with 14.

2 » Achieving a much better outcome over the weekend was No. 2/3 Florida softball (19-0), which swept the 2011 Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL with five victories in three days. UF beat Valparaiso 13-4 and Syracuse 2-0 on Friday before throttling the North Dakota State 18-0 and Pacific 10-2 on Saturday. The Gators closed the tournament with a 9-0 victory over NDSU, combining to outscore them 27-0 in a two-game span. Florida senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (11-0) won three of the five games, only giving up one earned run and four hits in 14.2 innings while striking out 20. Finishing the sweep was freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (8-0), who spelled Brombacher and won both of her games while allowing two earned runs and seven hits while striking out 14 in 13 innings of work.

Senior second baseman Aja Paculba, sophomore outfielder Brittany Schutte and senior first baseman Megan Bush all had spectacular weekends. Paculba (9-17) hit a pair of homers while knocking in five RBI and scoring eight runs. Schutte (5-15) hit two home runs in the opening game and another each in the final two games to total four over the weekend along with 14 RBI, eight runs and six walks. Bush (8-16) was equally impressive with two homers, eight RBI, five runs and three walks. Not to be outdone, freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan hit a grand slam in the third game of the weekend, and sophomore catcher Kelsey Horton hit dingers in back-to-back games.

3 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (12-1, 5-1 SEC) helped set a NCAA attendance record on Friday, defeating the No. 5 Utah Utes (7-2) 197.00-196.75 in front of 15,558 fans at the Huntsman Center. Florida won the match overall by capturing the vault, bars and beam team events even though they lost the floor by .075. Event winners included sophomore Ashanée Dickerson on the beam (9.875) and vault (9.90), where she tied freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King. Johnson and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto tied to win the bars (9.925), too. With the regular season now complete, UF will defend their SEC title at the 2011 SEC Championships beginning March 19.

4 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (13-1, 2-0 SEC) and No. 11 Florida men’s tennis (9-3, 2-0 SEC) each came away from their respective SEC opening weekends with a pair of decisive victories. The women swept the LSU Tigers (2-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-0 and No. 16 Arkansas 7-0 on the road, while the men stayed home and beat the Tigers (3-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-1 and Razorbacks (3-7, 0-2 SEC) 7-0. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will and No. 26 sophomore Lauren Embree won both of their singles matches over the weekend for the women, while No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix and No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. mirrored their performances on the men’s side.

Extra BIT » Continuing their steady rise in the sport, No. 14 Florida lacrosse (4-1) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-2) 15-10 after fighting back from a 5-5 tie on Saturday afternoon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Standout sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen once again led the way for the Gators with foul goals, while sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns added three of her own.
 

3/6: Vanderbilt post-game news and notes

Capturing his first Southeastern Conference regular season title since 2007, No. 14/14 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan spoke to the media after his team defeated the No. 20 Vanderbilt Commodores 86-76 on the road. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following Florida’s spectacular victory on Saturday.

BOYNTON HEATING UP; WALKER COOLING OFF

Don’t look now, but sophomore guard Kenny Boynton appears to be heating up at just the right time. Suffering through a shooting slump most of the season (even though he took enough shots to post double-digit points most nights), Boynton has hit 48.5 percent (16-for-33) from the field and 50 percent (13-for-26) of his attempts from beyond the arc over the last three games including a number of clutch threes that have started, extended or concluded major runs. He was 4-for-9 from three on Saturday and hit a trio of triples (including one four-point play) in 98 seconds in the middle of the second half.

Boynton’s success has allowed some to overlook the lack of offensive production from junior point guard Erving Walker over the same stretch. Walker is shooting only 27.6 percent (8-for-29) from the floor over the last three games and 21.7 percent (5-of-23) from downtown over the last four. Either instead of or because of his poor shooting, Walker has been concentrating on dishing the ball like many have hoped he would do over the last two seasons. He has 13 assists combined over the last two games and hit 10-of-11 shots from the charity stripe Saturday to help ice the game for Florida.

TYUS FINALLY STEPPING UP

Though senior forward Alex Tyus has had what he would certainly agree is a disappointing season overall, his effort over the last two games has been exemplary. He has faced some defensive struggles but nearly posted back-to-back double doubles against Alabama and Vanderbilt, falling one rebound shy of the effort in the former game. Tyus posted 13 points and 10 boards Saturday including seven big offensive rebounds. He had 12 points and nine boards Tuesday and combined to go 9-for-16 from the field in both games. With redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and freshman C Patric Young each playing quite well in the post, Tyus’s resurgence could give the Gators a formidable rotation down low going forward.

FLORIDA’s RESILIENCY THEIR GREATEST ASSET

Since coming back from injury, senior F Chandler Parsons has combined for 63 points and 34 rebounds over the last four games. That’s toughness. Florida has also won back-to-back Southeastern Conference title-clinching contests after falling on the road at Kentucky last week. That’s resiliency. Both are characteristics Donovan sees as prevalent in the Gators this year; he has also been preaching to the team recently that these are two of the main reasons they have been successful this season.

“Because failure is out there so much, when you don’t get the results you want, you identify what the problem is and you work hard to correct the problem,” he said after Saturday’s game. “A lot of times when you’re successful, you don’t look at why you’re successful, you’re too busy spending time living in and enjoying the success.

“I’ve talked to these guys about why they’ve been successful this year and that they can’t lose sight of that. It’s OK to celebrate and enjoy it, but they really need to understand why they’ve been a good team.”

2011 SEC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULING

The 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament begins March 10, but Florida automatically advances to the quarterfinals as a No. 1 seed and will face the winner of Tennessee vs. Arkansas on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. Should they win that game, they will square-off against either Mississippi State, Vanderbilt or LSU in semifinals action. Check out the full bracket below (click to expand in new window).

No. 1 Florida baseball sweeps Miami in series

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (10-1) completed a three-game series sweep of the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes (4-7) over the weekend with a 5-3 win on Sunday.

Florida was also victorious 8-3 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday to sweep Miami in Gainesville, FL for the first time in school history.

The Gators have now won nine of their last 10 match-ups against the Hurricanes including six-straight. This weekend they did so in front of a combined crowd of 13,552.

Friday: Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (3-0) struck out nine in five scoreless innings to help Florida prevail. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (3-3, 3 RBI, R) and sophomore third baseman Austin Maddox (2-5, HR, 2 RBI, R) led the way for the offense as the Gators scored eight unanswered runs and eventually won 8-3.

Saturday: Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall picked up right where Johnson left off, tossing seven one-hit innings while striking out five before being relieved by RHP Anthony DeSclafani in the top of the eighth. After DeSclafani (2-0) forced three consecutive ground outs, Florida decided to bring in senior Bryson Smith to pinch hit with Adams on second after a lead-off walk. Smith (1-1, RBI) knocked Adams home with a single to right center and DeSclafani struck out two in the top of the ninth to end the game. The 1-0 series-clinching win marked UF’s first shutout of UM since 2004.

Sunday: Tied 2-2 heading into the sixth, the Gators rallied for three runs and eventually prevailed 5-3 over the Hurricanes. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson took the hill for Florida but gave up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out four in five innings of work. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo (2-0) bridged the gap with two strikeouts in 2.2 shutout innings before DeSclafani (S1) eventually came on for the save opportunity in the ninth. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, RBI, R) hit a solo shot to start off the sixth inning rally, and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, 2 RBI) completed it with a two-run double. Florida also saw sterling offensive efforts from freshman 3B Zack Powers (2-4, RBI, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (0-2, 2 BB, 2 R).

UF, which has won 24-straight games at McKethan Stadium, looks to continue their winning ways next week with a pair of contests against Georgia Southern and USF as well as a three-game weekend series vs. Rhode Island.

Former UF track coach Jimmy Carnes dead at 76

Former Florida Gators track and field head coach Jimmy Carnes passed away Saturday. He was 76 years old.

Carnes, who coached at the University of Florida from 1965-76, lost a four-year battle with prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife and four children.

“Jimmy Carnes is an icon in the sport of track and field. His contributions to the University of Florida, as well as his sport on a national and international level, have been immeasurable,’’ Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley said in an official statement from the school. “Jimmy has been a great advocate of the sport of track and field and an outstanding citizen in the Gainesville community. Our thoughts go out to his wife, Nanette, and his family.”
Continue Reading » Former UF track coach Jimmy Carnes dead at 76

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