Billy Donovan leaves Florida Gators to become new coach of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

Billy Donovan has accepted the vacant head coaching position with the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending his 19-year stint with the Florida Gators. A source close to the Florida coach told OnlyGators.com on Thursday afternoon that Donovan and Oklahoma City have agreed to terms on a five-year contract with each program announcing the deal a few hours later.

Donovan, who amassed a 467-186 (202-109 SEC) record with the Gators and won 502 games during his 21-year college coaching career after spending two seasons at Marshall, will enter the NBA ranks as a coach for the first time in his career at a salary of nearly $6 million per season.

“I want to thank Jeremy Foley, the players, coaches and staff I’ve had the chance to work with during my time at Florida,” Donovan said in a school release. “The administrative support and stability has been unbelievable here, and it is an incredibly difficult decision to leave that. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation.”

Donovan continued discussing his shift to the NBA in an Oklahoma City release.

“The Thunder represents so many of the values that I embrace as a head coach; the commitment to the team above oneself, the dedicated pursuit of excellence, the commitment to organizational culture, the identity they have established and the fact that the Thunder and the community are so intricately woven into the fabric of one another. To have the ability to work with such a talented and high character group of players is also rare, and I am excited to forge ahead creating those relationships,” he said.

“It is of course bittersweet as the University of Florida will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my family’s. I’ve had the good fortune of working with the best athletic director in the country in Jeremy Foley over the last 19 years, and I’ll be forever grateful and thankful for the opportunity and his friendship. Countless players, students, and other people in the administration were responsible for our success and for the meaningful connection we had with the Gainesville community.

“I have a deep appreciation for what the University of Florida will always mean to me and I’ll forever be a Gator.”

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan leaves Florida Gators to become new coach of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

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After three straight national titles, coach Rhonda Faehn leaves Florida for USA Gymnastics

Just days after leading Florida Gators gymnastics to its third straight NCAA Championship, head coach Rhonda Faehn has decided to leave the program to become senior vice president of USA Gymnastics.

Faehn, who took over Florida gymnastics in 2003, has brought the Gators to 10 NCAA Super Six finals in 13 seasons (2004, 2006-10, 2012-15). UF under Faehn was on the precipice of a NCAA national title for nearly a decade before winning its first in 2013 – and two more in the years that followed.

Continue Reading » After three straight national titles, coach Rhonda Faehn leaves Florida for USA Gymnastics

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Three-peat: Florida Gators gymnastics makes history, wins third straight national title

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Florida Gators gymnastics continued breaking through ceilings on Saturday when it captured the program’s third straight NCAA National Championship by edging the competition with a final score of 197.850.

Despite failing to earn its league crown or win its semifinal outright, Florida – led by head coach Rhonda Faehn – took down its top-notch competition Saturday to obtain sole possession of the national title after splitting the honor one year ago.

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Florida Gators gymnastics advances to 2015 NCAA Super Six, looks to defend back-to-back titles

For the fourth straight year, Florida Gators gymnastics – the two-time defending NCAA National Champions – will compete in the NCAA Super Six.

Florida posted a score of 197.475 in its NCAA Championship Semifinal, matching the mark posted by Utah, which will also move on to the final showdown on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Florida coach Jim McElwain a fan of satellite camps, not thrilled with uneven rules

Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan sweater are expected to swing into Tampa at some point this June for a satellite camp right in the backyard of the Florida Gators.

To some coaches, like Auburn’s Gus Malzahn – who is dealing with a similar Harbaugh satellite camp just 74 miles from his campus – this is a huge deal. To Florida head coach Jim McElwain, who is similarly not pleased to have to deal with the in-state competition from Michigan, it is just an example of recruiting rules being uneven across the country.

“I wish they weren’t [coming down here], absolutely, 100 percent,” he said Wednesday, “and yet, I don’t blame them. There’s nothing we can do about it until we change our rule as an SEC group or actually create something on the NCAA level where we’re all on the same [level]. It’s like with any of the rules, as long as everybody is playing on the same field, you just go deal with it right. I kind of wish we’d knock it off, but more power to them.”

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Limited oral history of the Final Four-winning 1999-2000 Florida Gators basketball team

Exactly 15 years ago today, then-34-year-old head coach Billy Donovan led the Florida Gators to the first Final Four victory in program history.

The 1999-2000 Gators were a special group, which included four NBA players (three of whom are still in the league), a young but hungry coaching staff (every assistant went on to be head coaches elsewhere) and a 10-man rotation that allowed Florida to be relentless on both ends of the court throughout entire games.

Those Gators captured just the second Southeastern Conference regular-season title in school history, played in the national championship game for the first time in school history and were ranked wire-to-wire that season for, you guessed it, the first time in school history.

It was a transcendent Florida team that came together to overcome tremendous obstacles, including a overall No. 1-ranked team in Duke – with Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Booser, Chris Carrawell and Mike Dunleavy – that would go on to win the national title the following season.

OnlyGators.com wanted to tell the story of these Gators through the eyes of those who were actually there. As such, we reached out to guard Teddy Dupay and forward Brent Wright to recount one of the biggest moments in program history on its 15th anniversary.

With the 2014-15 Final Four being played in Indianapolis – the same site as the 1999-2000 Four – and featuring two of the same teams (Michigan State, Wisconsin), the stars could not be better aligned for a look back.

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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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NCAA chooses not to penalize Florida Gators for impermissible recruiting contact violation

The Florida Gators were not penalized by the NCAA on Friday for an incident that occurred on Jan. 23, 2014, when former wide receivers coach Joker Phillips violated a recruiting rule with a “bump.”

A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not. The NCAA and Phillips agreed that he and a recruiting prospect “engaged in a conversation which exceeded a casual greeting” on the athlete’s high school campus that included recruiting conversation and the athlete “entering his social media contact information into the assistant football coach’s phone.”

The NCAA concluded that an unnamed Florida assistant (Phillips) “visited a prospect off-campus before NCAA rules allow for recruiting contact” that gave the Gators a recruiting advantage and “exceed[ed] the boundaries of permissible recruiting and are a serious issue for the membership.”

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