TWO BITS: Donovan and Knicks, Roper’s offense

1 » With the Florida Gators back on top, head coach Billy Donovan will once be written about as someone who could potentially jump to the NBA after the season. Even after he accepted the Orlando job, changed his mind and returned to Florida, Donovan has still been heavily considered by some of the top franchises in the league and remains a hot name to this day whenever there are coaching openings. There also happens to be no better team to link Donovan with than the New York Knicks, his hometown squad, the only franchise he played for in the NBA – and as it so happens – one that tends to make a coaching change every other year. ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O’Connor on Tuesday night listed Donovan as a top-five candidate to take what is expected to be an open job with the Knicks after the 2013-14 season.

He has a chance to win his third national title at Florida and, at 48, he might finally be ready for the new career challenge he accepted (and then declined days later) from the Orlando Magic in 2007. Donovan grew up on Long Island and lived out his boyhood dream when he played 44 games for Rick Pitino’s Knicks in 1987-88.

Though he still loves to tell stories of the time his mother took him to the Garden and bought him a Clyde Frazier T-shirt, Donovan rejected Isiah Thomas’ attempt to hire him as Knicks coach years ago. Would he consider leaving Florida after 18 seasons for a chance to rebuild the only team he ever wanted to play for?

“Billy would be an awesome NBA coach,” said one source who knows him well. “He doesn’t have any professional coaching experience, but Brad Stevens is managing it well in Boston and that should give the Knicks more confidence to look that way. I just don’t know if Billy would do it.”

“If I can’t get Jeff Van Gundy,” said a second source, “my next guy is Billy Donovan. Maybe he should be the Knicks’ first choice because he doesn’t have Jeff’s baggage from coaching there before. He runs a pro offense, his teams defend and I think he’s got the personality for it.”

Donovan-to-New York always has and always will make sense. However, these Knicks are not the franchise of his youth. New York has major problems in ownership, the front office and on the court with a roster hamstrung for 2014-15 and set to potentially lose its best player in Carmelo Anthony. Donovan, if or when he jumps to the NBA, would seemingly do so at an opportune time. He’s had plenty of chances in the past but turned them down to remain with the Gators where he is comfortable and working for a great friend in athletic director Jeremy Foley. Donovan still has a son who he is coaching and will remain around the team (he just got accepted to graduate school at Florida), and his father is also in town. Donovan-to-the Knicks does make sense, one day, maybe two years from now when New York is looking for the next big name coach to save the franchise. Then again, perhaps the lure of his favorite team will be too great. Perhaps owner Jim Dolan will offer too much power and money to turn down. You just never know.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Donovan and Knicks, Roper’s offense

Tags: , , , ,

1/13: Roper ready to reign over Florida offense

Two weeks after officially being announced as the newest Florida Gators offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper met with the media in Gainesville, FL to discuss extensively what it will take to turn around a unit that finished 112th in scoring offense (18.8 points per game) and 113rd in total offense (316.7 yards per game).

THE INTRODUCTION

Before Roper could take the podium, head coach Will Muschamp discussed the process he went through to hire the Gators newest offensive coordinator, the third since he took over the program in 2011.

“After the season was over, obviously needed to make some improvements on the offensive side of the ball. I mean as I looked at it, I think evaluation-wise, we needed to be more tempo, we needed to create more snaps, we needed to create more space plays, continue to stay balanced, be diverse in our background moving forward. I felt like being in the [shot]gun would help some of our personnel and that’s where we’re headed. …

“I took about 12-15 teams, two to three games apiece, and just kind of started looking at people that I felt fit that mold, fit that style. Kept playing through it, formed about four or five candidates that I felt had interest in the job. Kurt Roper’s name kept coming up. I did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people, found out a lot of things looking into his background.

“Did not realize he called the plays at Ole Miss while I was at LSU as defensive coordinator. He did a fantastic job there developing Eli Manning as his quarterback. Moving onto Kentucky with Andre Woodson, did a great job. To Tennessee, then Duke with Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree, two guys playing in the National Football League right now. So the quarterback development part was there, which is critical in that position, what we’re trying to do. Play-caller part [was also there] and then the diverse background.

“Talked to a lot of guys who talked about their system. Well, you kind of go through what we went through this past year, you lose a couple guys in your system and you’re in trouble. So you’ve got to be able to shift gears and change to what fits your personnel, and I think his background speaks for itself as far as being a two-back team at Ole Miss and as he moved forward, now you’re looking at Duke and a lot of the spread principles we need to look at. So I think it’ll mix well with what we’re trying to do here at the University of Florida with our players and the development of our guys.”

A PPG TEAM

The Gators were at the bottom of the barrel last season in both scoring and total offense, but Roper made it a point to explain Monday that he is only concerned about the former – putting as many points on the scoreboard as possible.

“Our whole philosophy on offense is points per game. It’s not yards, it’s not going up and down the field. It’s how many points we can get,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re a PPG team…is what we get down to.”

Roper’s goal, one Muschamp previewed with his own comments, is to get Florida playing with tempo, speed and in space, creating “as many one-on-one tackle opportunities as you can” because those create “positive yards and positive yards keep you on the field.”

Continue Reading » 1/13: Roper ready to reign over Florida offense

Tags: , , , ,

Florida OC Roper talks Cutcliffe, coaching, challenges and expectations with Gators

Hours after officially being announced as the new offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators, Kurt Roper met with the media via a teleconference held by the Duke Blue Devils. He will remain with Duke as offensive coordinator for the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 before joining the Florida football program.

FROM THE COACH THAT KNOWS HIM BEST

For all but one of his 17 years as a coach, Roper has worked in some way, shape or form under Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe with stops at Tennessee, Ole Miss and now Duke. Cutcliffe on Thursday discussed Roper at length, explaining why he believes he is ready for a top-tier job.

» On Roper’s strengths: “There’s the things that we pride ourselves in: detail and training quarterbacks, the attention to detail of preparing an offensive team to play a game, practice habits. It’s the total package. I think you have a systematic approach, everything is covered. You try to take players offensively – that’s what your job is to be an offensive coordinator – to put them in every circumstance they can possibly be in, in a game, in practice, and build confidence through great execution. Kurt will certainly, that will be one of their great strengths. They will be extremely well-prepared coming out of practice.”

» On Roper’s coaching style: “His style would be intensity, tempo, quality of repetition. From the minute they hit the field, it’s going to be intense. He’s not a…I wouldn’t call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to be what we call ‘treat the ground like a hot stove.’ If you hit the ground, you better get up running. By the time they get on the field until they get off, they’re going to be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps. So I would call it very intense.”

Continue Reading » Florida OC Roper talks Cutcliffe, coaching, challenges and expectations with Gators

Tags: , , , , ,

Florida announces hiring of Duke’s Kurt Roper

The Florida Gators on Thursday officially announced the hiring of their new offensive coordinator, welcoming Kurt Roper of the Duke Blue Devils into the fold.

“I’m excited to have Coach Roper join our staff,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement released by the school. “He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced.

“He has had success calling plays in the SEC and has tutored three NFL quarterbacks. He has had players produce at every offensive position and he is one of the most well-respected coaches in the country.”

Roper becomes Muschamp’s third offensive coordinator hire in just four seasons, following Charie Weis (2011) and Brent Pease (2012-13). Weis left for a head coach job at Kansas, but Pease was fired one day after the conclusion of the 2013 season when his offense finished worse than 100th nationally for the second-straight year.

Like Weis and Pease, Roper will also coach the team’s quarterbacks.

According to The Gainesville Sun, he will earn $600,000 in his first season. The terms of Roper’s prior contract with Duke were not released as it is a private university.

One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award, which is handed out annually to the best assistant coach in college football, Roper just concluded his sixth season with the Blue Devils and also served as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

His unit finished in the top 70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense by utilizing a pass-heavy attack.

Muschamp has been telling players and recruits that UF hopes to switch to an up-tempo spread offense in 2013.

Duke will face Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. in Atlanta, GA, and Roper will stay on to help lead the team’s offense in its bowl game.

Continue Reading » Florida announces hiring of Duke’s Kurt Roper

Tags: , , ,

Reports: Florida Gators to hire Duke’s Kurt Roper as next offensive coordinator

Duke Blue Devils offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will be hired to the same position with the Florida Gators, according to an ESPN report released Tuesday citing sources.

Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer and CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman both confirmed ESPN‘s initial report.

Roper arrived in Gainesville, FL, for an official interview with Florida head coach Will Muschamp at 8 a.m. on Monday, according to travel records from the University Athletic Association’s private jet. The same plane departed Gainesville hours later, returning Roper to Raleigh, NC, shortly after 4 p.m.

One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award, which is handed out annually to the best assistant coach in college football, Roper is in his fifth season with the Blue Devils and also serves as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

His unit has finished in the top 70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense by utilizing a pass-heavy attack.

Muschamp has been telling players and recruits that UF hopes to switch to an up-tempo spread offense in 2013.

Duke is scheduled to face Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. in Atlanta, GA. It is currently unknown whether Roper will remain with the team through the bowl game before beginning his duties at Florida.

Roper has been a highly-regarded assistant throughout his career, which includes plenty of experience in the Southeastern Conference. He started off by serving as a graduate assistant at Tennessee (1996-98) before moving on to Ole Miss and working under David Cutcliffe as a quarterbacks coach (1999-01) and passing game coordinator (2002-04). In the latter role, Roper helped direct Eli Manning to a 2003 SEC Player of the Year Award; he would eventually become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Continue Reading » Reports: Florida Gators to hire Duke’s Kurt Roper as next offensive coordinator

Tags: , , , ,

Muschamp interviews Roper for Florida OC job

Updated at 4:15 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp on Monday interviewed Duke Blue Devils offensive coordinator Kurt Roper for the same position on the Florida Gators staff, according to CoachingSearch.com, and was still in the process of doing so as of press time.

According to the travel history of the University Athletic Association’s private jet, Muschamp or Florida representatives flew into Raleigh, NC, Monday morning around 6 a.m. but left a half hour later, arriving back in Gainesville, FL at 8 a.m. with Roper as a passenger. The same flight departed from Gainesville in the afternoon and has already set down back in Raleigh.

One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award (which is handed out to the best assistant coach in college football), Roper is in his fifth season at Duke and also serves as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. His unit has finished top-70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense.

Continue Reading » Muschamp interviews Roper for Florida OC job

Tags: , , , , , ,

SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Florida women’s tennis sweeps Duke 4-0

No. 1 Florida Gators women’s tennis (25-2) advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 15 Duke Blue Devils (16-10) on Friday in Champaign, IL.

Florida improved to 27-3 all-time in round of 16 matches and is moving on to the quarterfinals for the eighth time in the last nine seasons as well as the 27th time in school history. UF has swept all three opponents they have faced in the NCAA Tournament, amassing a combined 12-0 match record so far in this year’s event.

The Gators were partially gifted the doubles point on Friday as the Blue Devils’ injuries made them unable to field a third doubles team. The No. 11 duo of senior Lauren Embree and junior Sofie Oyen cruised to an 8-1 victory to clinch the point.

Duke was also forced to forfeit a singles match due to injury, putting Florida up 2-0 before singles action even began. No. 123 junior Olivia Janowicz put UF ahead 3-0 by quickly dispatching of Nicole Lipp 6-1, 6-2, and No. 89 freshman Brianna Morgan earned a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Marianne Jodoin to clinch the match for the Gators.

Florida will remain in Champaign for the rest of the tournament as it looks to defend its back-to-back NCAA titles. The Gators have now won 15-straight NCAA Tournament matches dating back to 2011 and are currently on an 18-match winning streak dating back to March 3. Florida will next take on No. 8 California on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 Page 1 of 5  1  2  3  4  5 »