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.
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