Billy Donovan talks about hitting 400 wins

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the 400th game of his career on Monday when Florida routed Stetson 96-70 in Orlando, FL. Following the game, Donovan was hit with a Gatorade shower in the locker room and got to celebrate for a short while with the team and visitors Chandler Parsons and Jason Williams. In his post-game press conference, Donovan spoke at length about reaching 400 victories and his coaching career.

On what winning 400 games means to him: “One, I’m definitely clearly getting older. A guy like Jason Williams is here at the game, and he was obviously a part of it when it first started, coaching him. Chandler came in the locker room [and I thought about] his time here. Joakim Noah has been on campus a lot with the lockout. The Brent Wrights of the world. The [Udonis] Haslems. I think more about the time here and the guys that have come through. There have been a lot of special guys. Not only the guys that people get a chance to watch that are in the NBA, because those are obvious guys, but the Justin Hamiltons, the Brent Wrights, the Major Parkers – that first recruiting class. Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Brett Nelson, there have been so many guys that have come through that were close to making the NBA that maybe didn’t make it that had a huge significance and impact on our program. It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s a lot of really good quality kids I’ve coached for a period of time. It’s hard to believe you see Jason Williams. The guy is married, he already has a couple of kids and is retired from the NBA. It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older.”

Read everything else Billy Donovan had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Billy Donovan talks about hitting 400 wins

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The Silver Lining: Billy Donovan’s character makes replacing his assistants effortless

When Larry Shyatt appeared to be the only assistant heading out the door, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan said he wanted to replace him with someone young. Learning over a 40-hour period that his entire staff would be leaving less than a month after reaching the Elite Eight in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, he decided to turn to a friendly face and a familiar colleague.

For Donovan, it was not a stretch to hire the two men he turned to right away. A six-year assistant under Donovan, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey brings stability and familiarity to the bench, while former St. Johns head coach Norm Roberts offers experience and vast amounts of knowledge. Both are excellent recruiters and respected coaches who will provide the team with a steadiness and sense of continuity even though the entire staff will be changing.

When you hear Donovan’s contemporaries rave about him, they not only discuss his ability to draw up plays, create game plans or scout opponents. They point to his character, management style and sterling reputation. That is why, before Shyatt was even out the door, Donovan had plenty of options on who he could hire to replace him.

“There’s a lot of good coaches out there,” he said Tuesday. “The one thing that’s been somewhat overwhelming and really positive is the amount of interest there’s been, especially when Larry left.”

Donovan is the type of coach who is not only concerned about winning basketball games but also making sure he develops his players on and off the court. He does the same thing for his assistants.

His track record helping assistants find head coaching jobs is unmistakable. The loyalty his former players and coaches show to him is unwavering. Donovan’s character and demeanor are why guys he has sent off to the NBA or others he has helped compete with him for honors like SEC Coach of the Year still refer back to him with high levels of gratitude and appreciation.

“My job, my responsibility is to help these kids grow, put them in a competitive situation to try to win something, teach them something through winning,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “And then also staff-wise, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of guys whose lives got changed in a lot of different ways.”

Those traits he possesses are why – if he calls – Arkansas assistant Brett Nelson or Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall would probably fight it out to fill the third position on his new staff. They are why it took promises of coach-in-waiting positions from Texas and Louisville, respectively, to get Rob Lanier and Richard Pitino to leave his side.

“That’s one thing about this profession. Sometimes you never know about timing and opportunities,” Donovan said Tuesday.

One former assistant faced with a great opportunity was Shaka Smart, who was offered the VCU head coaching job after 10 months under Donovan. He was going back-and-forth about accepting the position because of the respect he had for his boss.

“I don’t think Shaka or I ever anticipated him leaving as quickly as he did. Obviously VCU made a great hire. When you get really good people, there’s going to be opportunities,” Donovan said. “There’s a difference when guys are out seeking and hunting jobs. I’ve been very fortunate that the guys I’ve had here haven’t done that.

“To tell you what kind of guy Shaka Smart is, he almost didn’t take the VCU [job] because he felt so guilty only being here 10 months. I pushed him out the door because I told him it was a great job and he needed to go. If he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t have experienced what he did this year.”

Perhaps most importantly, those characteristics Donovan possesses are why he can lose his entire staff in a matter of days and fill his two main assistant positions with top-notch former head coaches without so much as batting an eye.

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Donovan adds Pelphrey, Roberts to Gators staff

A familiar face and an old friend will be joining Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in Gainesville, FL next season. On Tuesday, the University of Florida announced that a pair of former head coaches – John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts – have been hired as assistants for the basketball team.

“Having John back will be a great addition to our program,’’ Donovan said in a school release. “Obviously, he has a level of familiarity with me and with the University of Florida makes this a great fit. John’s a great coach, he’s a great friend and has a love for Florida, and we’re excited to bring him back. Being from New York, I’ve known Norm for a long [time]. He’s an outstanding coach, he’s a great recruiter, has high character and integrity and I’m thrilled to have him on our staff here at Florida.”

An assistant at Florida for six seasons (1996-2002), Pelphrey will be reunited with his close friend and mentor. He played under Donovan (an assistant at the time) and head coach Rick Pitino with the Kentucky Wildcats and served as an assistant on Donovan’s first coaching staff for two seasons with the Marshall Thundering Herd (1994-96). He joined Donovan when he was hired by UF, helping lead the Gators to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Pelphrey left in 2002 for a head coaching gig with the South Alabama Jaguars, where he led the team for five seasons. He won the Sun Belt Championship, was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and brought his squad to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006. USA would end up falling to Florida in the first round.

Noticing his success at a smaller school, Arkansas hired him to lead their program in 2007. Pelphrey brought the Razorbacks their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999 in his first season but failed to replicate his success over the following three. He was fired by Arkansas on March 13 even though he had a top-tier recruiting class on its way in.

Roberts, who does not have any direct coaching connection to Donovan, is – like his new boss – a native New Yorker. He most recently served as head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm from 2004-10 but was fired on March 19, 2010, after leading the team to an unimpressive 81-101 record in six seasons.

Donovan is in the middle of reshaping his coaching staff as he has now lost all three of his 2010-11 assistants in one offseason. Long-time cohort Larry Shyatt accepted the top job at Wyoming, assistant Rob Lanier is returning to coach at Texas, and assistant Richard Pitino will join his father’s staff at Louisville.

OGGOA learned on April 3 that Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall is a top candidate to fill a role on Donovan’s revamped coaching staff. Another option is former Florida player Brett Nelson, who coached under Pelphrey at Arkansas last season.

Photo Credit: Unknown, Chris Trotman/Getty Images

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Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN/FSNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Sirius/XM: -/199
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Pelphrey
Record: 14-4 (3-1) Record: 12-5 (2-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -9

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Arkansas 13-10, is 9-2 in the last 11 meetings and 3-0 the last three times the teams have met including a 71-66 victory on the road in 2010. Donavan is 13-5 against the Razorbacks, which includes a 7-0 record at home.
» The Gators finished 6-0 against the SEC West last season, are 52-16 since 2000 (30-4 at home) and are 2-0 this season including wins over Ole Miss and Auburn.
» Struggling offensively most of the season, Florida scored 77.3 points per game in three games from Jan. 8-15 while shooting 46.9 percent (23-for-49) from three-point range. However, all of that changed Thursday as the Gators scored only 45 points while shooting 28.3 percent (15-of-53) from the field and 19.2 percent from downtown (5-of-26) against Auburn in the worst offensive performance in Donovan’s UF career.
» Florida has won 9 of its last 11 games with six victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are 10-1 when holding an opponent under 60 points this season.
» Florida has out-rebounded 14 of 18 opponents this season but only one of their four opponents in SEC competition, doing so by a +6.8 rebounds per game advantage.
» Arkansas is a defensive machine this season, leading the Southeastern Conference in blocked shots (6.8 per game), steals (9.4 per game) and turnover margin (+2.9).
» The Gators best the Razorbacks in three of four major statistical categories nationally. Florida holds advantages in rebounding 64th-180th (37.9-35.2), assists 85th-173rd (14.4-13.1) and field goal percentage 82nd-158th (.459-.441), while Arkansas scores more points 112th-165th (72.2-69.8) on average. The Gators rank 17th in RPI (.6316) and 11th in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Razorbacks being 102nd (.5397) and 180th, respectively.
» Donovan will face Pelphrey, a former assistant of his for eight years at Marshall and UF, and assistant coach Brett Nelson, a former player under Donovan at Florida.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (44.9%) and three-point percentage (42.7%). He has single-handedly accounted for 41 of Florida’s 104 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat one week ago.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.3) while leading the Gators with 6.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 56.4 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but has been marred in a slump this year. Boynton is only shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from beyond the arc. He is second on the team in scoring with 12.4 points per game and hits a team-high 77.1 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.6 and 16.0 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.4:1), while Young is the team’s most efficient scorer at 57.5 percent.
» Arkansas G Rotnei Clarke…who leads his team in scoring at 13.0 points per game and is second in free throw shooting, hitting at a 80.5 percent clip.
» Razorbacks F Delvon Johnson…who leads his squad as a shooter and rebounder. Johnson hits 56.1 percent of his shots and grabs 8.0 boards per game.

DONOVAN’s FRIDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY

After Thursday’s close win against Auburn, Donovan spoke to the media and had some interesting thoughts about his team’s performance.

On his team’s poor shooting Thursday: “I felt watching the film that our guys had pretty decent looks. Were there some ill-advised threes? Absolutely. Were there some ill-advised post moves that guys tried to make in traffic? Yes. Overall I thought we had pretty decent looks. Our guys got pretty good looks from the perimeter. The more shots don’t go down, the more they can back up into your post.”

On how he feels in general looking back on the game: “Happy it’s over. I’ve never been a part of a game like that. […] Hopefully it drives home a message to our guys. This was a game in which our offense was not there, we didn’t shoot the ball very well, it was a difficult grind for us offensively, but our guys managed to play relatively good defense.”

On the shooting problems: “I felt, in the game, that our guys were not shooting the ball with confidence when they were open. What you try to do is, you try to keep encouraging, trying to instill confidence that they have to take those shots and shoot the ball with confidence when they’re open.”

On the team taking so many threes: “You can want to throw the ball inside as much as you want to throw the ball inside, but if they’re going to send two and three guys inside on a post guy and you got Erving Walker or Kenny Boynton or Chandler Parsons or Scottie out there on the perimeter open… I don’t want our post guys shooting out of triple teams. I don’t want Vernon Macklin taking a turn-around jump shot with two guys on him. You always have got to take what the defense gives you.”

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Gators defeat Tigers 88-62 in exhibition finale

No. 9/11 Florida Gators men’s basketball finished its short exhibition season undefeated, taking down the Georgetown College Tigers 88-62 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, on Wednesday night.

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the way for the Gators with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting (4-of-9 from downtown) with three assist, while junior point guard Erving Walker was effective on both ends of the floor, scoring 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting with seven assists and six steals. Senior forward Chandler Parsons contributed to the effort with nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

As a team, Florida shot 55.9 percent (33-of-59) from the floor and led 44-19 going into halftime. The Gators started the second half with a lack of intensity and focus likely due to their large lead, allowing the Tigers to score 43 points in the final 20 minutes.

“Top 10 teams don’t hold a team in the first half to 32 percent from the field, 14 percent from the three-point line and then look at the second half, defensively, [and not do the same],” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “To give up 53 percent in the second half from the field and 50 percent from the three-point line, to me, is the reason why I don’t believe we’re a top-10 team. Because of that right there. Top 10 teams, to me, don’t do those things.”

Florida officially begins the 2010-11 season on Friday, Nov. 12 when they take on UNC-Wilmington at 7 p.m. The game will be available live on Sun Sports

Other stat lines:
– Senior F Alex Tyus – eight points (4-of-7), two assists
– Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin – 10 points (5-of-6), four rebounds
– Sophomore G Erik Murphy – seven points (3-of-5), three rebounds, two steals
– Freshman C Patric Young – seven points (2-of-4), three rebounds, two blocks
– Freshman G Casey Prather – four points (1-of-5), three reb., two blocks, two steals
– Freshman F Will Yeguete – six points (1-of-1), three rebounds

DONOVAN’s POST-GAME QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Gators defeat Tigers 88-62 in exhibition finale

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Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

The last year has been one of ups-and-downs for former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. From having to deal with an unfathomable episode regarding her privacy to performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and just recently signing a new two-year deal to remain a featured member of the ESPN broadcast team, Andrews has appeared strong, resilient and unrelenting. On the brink of the greatest undertaking of her career – hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU and joining the cast of Good Morning America – she took time out of her schedule to speak exclusively with OGGOA about her career as a Gators dazzler, recent trials and tribulations, perspective on her own fame and love for the University of Florida.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tampa, was the University of Florida always at the top of your list for college? How did you wind up there?
ERIN ANDREWS: “Growing up in Tampa, there are three schools: Florida State, Miami and Florida. Obviously because Florida was closest to Tampa, Tampa is really like Gator haven. I made the comment one day to my dad, which he’ll never let me live down…because I was such a sports fan growing up, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really want to go to a college that has a good football team.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing to live by Erin. I’m glad that’s what you’re choosing your education by.’ At the time it sounded really stupid, but actually it was kind of funny that it worked out that way because by going to Florida, I knew they had a great journalism program, but also because Florida has such a good football team, we were exposed to TBS, we were exposed to ESPN, we were exposed to all the national sports media coming to the campus to see the team, to see [head coach Steve] Spurrier. That was really good for me to kind of be around that at the time. Actually, that wasn’t a stupid comment.

AS: How much of an influence did your father’s [six-time Emmy Award-winner Steve Andrews] profession have on your major and eventual career?
EA: “My dad played a huge part in it. I grew up with my father being on TV. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. We’d turn on the TV at 6:00 and there was my dad. I grew up at the TV station; I played around on the TV set. So that just wasn’t a big deal – being in front of the camera – because I was so used to [watching] my dad. He was a giant sports fan, so that’s where I got my passion for sports and watching it and becoming familiar with the broadcasters and announcers that I liked – and the athletes. That’s where it all just kind of snowballed. I decided that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I loved the stories with coaches and athletes. I told my dad when I was young, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ He also laughed at me and said, ‘You know, everybody wants to do this for a living.’ I went to Florida, we checked out the journalism school. I really liked it. I just enrolled and it began – the whole process. The first couple years at Florida you don’t really get a taste of your major until probably your junior and senior year – that’s when I was very serious about it.

AS: You obviously spent a good amount of time at Weimer Hall but some of your most exciting times were likely at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. While at Florida, you were famously a member of the Dazzlers for four years. Was that something you had planned on doing from the beginning?
EA: “I grew up dancing my whole life with my little sister [Kendra Andrews]. That was just something I knew that Florida had – a dance team. I loved mine growing up and the experience that I had. I actually auditioned my senior year of high school and didn’t make the team and then went back out my sophomore year and I was on the team my sophomore, junior and senior season[s].”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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Pelphrey hires Nelson as assistant at Arkansas

Two former Florida Gators will come together next season on the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball staff as head coach John Pelphrey has hired former All-American guard Brett Nelson (1999-2003) as an assistant coach.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Nelson first worked as director of basketball operations at Colorado State and then Virginia Commonwealth (under Alabama head coach Anthony Grant). He got his first assistant job with Donnie Jones at Marshall in 2007, coaching under him for three seasons before leaving the program with him during a transition to Central Florida just two months ago.

“I am very excited to have Brett join our staff,” Pelphrey said in a release. “Brett has a tremendous basketball IQ and will bring our student-athletes a first-hand perspective of the commitment and dedication that is required to win Southeastern Conference championships and compete nationally. In his tenures at Colorado State, Virginia Commonwealth and Marshall, Brett has been instrumental in both the recruiting and on-court successes of those programs. I have known Brett throughout his basketball career as a player and a coach. He is an exceptional person and will be an excellent addition to our coaching staff and our program.”

During his time with the Gators, Nelson led the team to four NCAA Tournaments, a National Championship game and two Southeastern Conference Championships while averaging 11 points per game.

Grant, Jones and Pelphrey are all former assistants under head coach Billy Donovan.

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Is Pitino the next Donovan assistant out the door?

At one point in his career, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan was an up-and-coming assistant coach, learning under then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for six years (1989-1994) before moving on to his first head job with Marshall (1994-1996).

Since 2002, Donovan has lost four of his own assistants to head coaching gigs across the country, and three have done so well that they moved on to bigger and better programs. In 2002, John Pelphrey departed to take over South Alabama (he is now head coach at Arkansas). Anthony Grant was hired by Virginia Commonwealth in 2006 (he is now leading Alabama). A year later, Donnie Jones took off for Marshall (he was just hired by Central Florida).

Also departing the Gators in that time were Shaka Smart (who took over for Grant at VCU), Tim Maloney (who floated around but is now associated head coach at Massachusetts) and Tom Ostrom (who traveled with Pelphrey to USA and then Arkansas). Even former Florida guard Brett Nelson earned personnel gigs, working as director of basketball operations at Colorado State and VCU (under Grant) before becoming an assistant coach when Jones joined Marshall in 2007.

With Donovan’s coaching tree branching out at a Pitino- and Dean Smith-like pace, it should be no surprise that another one of his assistants is garnering plenty of attention for some college basketball head coaching job openings.

Richard Pitino, who joined the Gators’ staff this season as an assistant partially for his recruiting prowess, is a name being tossed around in rumors about various job openings including Jones’ vacant seat at Marshall, the top spot at Iona, a job with Wagner and the recently available position with Holy Cross.

The younger Pitino’s previous experience was as an assistant coach at Northeastern and Duquesne as well as under his father at Louisville; his name recognition and ability to recruit make him a valuable commodity for a smaller program.

No interviews have been requested and no offers have been made (that we know of), but often times – especially with college coaching jobs – when there’s smoke, there’s fire.

04/02 UPDATE: Pitino has been interviewed by Iona.

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