Florida hires Rashon Burno as assistant coach

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan did not wait long to fill the hole on his coaching staff, hiring Rashon Burno to serve as his new assistant coach.

“I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I’m everything someone would be in a position like this,” Burno said in a team statement.

A standout point guard at DePaul during his playing days and the only three-time captain in school history, Burno finished his career ranked third in steals (201). After a short stint away from basketball, Burno joined the coaching profession when he was hired as the head coach of Marmion Academy High School, a position he served in for three years.

His first college job came at Towson in 2010 under former DePaul head coach Pat Kennedy, but Kennedy resigned following the 2011 season and Burno moved on to Manhattan where he served as an assistant this past season.

Donovan is connected to Burno through St. Anthony’s High School (Jersey City, NJ) head coach Bob Hurley, a close friend of the Gators coach. Burno was the starting point guard for Hurley’s back-to-back national championship teams in 1996 and 1997.

“He’s a great worker and a high-character guy,” Donovan said in a statement. “He’s almost at a point now where he has a chance to grow into something special. He probably has some things he’ll need to learn and grow, but he’s got a great upside. And he’s really invested into our program because of the opportunity being given him.”

Florida redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario also graduated from St. Anthony’s, leading Hurley’s team to a 32-0 record in 2008.

Burno is the fourth assistant coach and fifth major staff member that Donovan has hired in the last two seasons. A vacancy became open for an assistant when Norm Roberts left Florida for Kansas earlier in the week.

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Assistant Norm Roberts leaves Florida for Kansas

For the second time in the last four months a prominent Florida Gators assistant coach has left the school to take a job with the Kansas Jayhawks. Just like offensive coordinator Charlie Weis moved on from the football team at the end of their regular season in December to become head coach at Kansas, assistant Norm Roberts has left the Florida basketball team following their successful postseason to accept the top assistant job under KU head coach Bill Self, according to InsidetheGators.com.

One of three new assistants to join head coach Billy Donovan‘s staff for the 2011-12 season, Roberts will leave the Gators after spending just one year with the team. Like the others, his reasons for moving on from Florida are well-intentioned.

Roberts and Self have a relationship that dates back to 1995 when Self first hired him as an assistant at Oral Roberts. The two spent a total of nine seasons together with Self as the head coach and Roberts as his assistant at Oral Roberts (1995-97), Tulsa (1997-2000), Illinois (2000-03) and Kansas (2003-04) before Roberts left to take over the St. John’s program as head coach from 2004-10.

His last year at St. John’s came just as his son Niko Roberts was deciding where to play basketball at the collegiate level. He will be entering his junior year as a walk-on with the Jayhawks next season and will now have his father as an assistant coach.

A spot opened up on the Kansas bench for Roberts as former KU No. 1 overall pick Danny Manning, an assistant with the Jayhawks since 2006-07, was officially announced as Tulsa’s new head coach on Wednesday.

“I’m thrilled,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World on Monday. “We were together for nine years. My family helped raise his kids. His family has helped raise mine. We’re close. Certainly we hate to see Danny go, but Norm coming back will be a big bonus to our program.”

Donovan now must hire his fifth new prominent staff member in the last two seasons. He replaced three assistant coaches and a strength and conditioning coach last year and will now have to find a suitable candidate to fill Roberts’s shoes going forward.

Florida has since confirmed Roberts’s departure from the program.

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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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Donovan confident in Gators’ rebuilt staff

It has been a long offseason for Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan. In addition to serving as a court coach for USA Basketball, traveling across the country recruiting some of the nation’s best high school players and preparing for the 2011-12 season, Donovan had to hire four new staff members including three assistant coaches.

“The only guy that liked me half way decent was our trainer [Dave Werner]. That’s because I take him fishing a lot,” Donovan joked during Florida basketball’s media day on Wednesday.

“In hiring, there [were] a couple things that were concerns for me. One, I felt like I needed some familiarity. People around me that knew me, knew Florida, knew the way we were going to do things here. It can be very time consuming when you have to train three new people. When I say ‘train,’ I’m not talking about coaching train them, but terminology on the court, how you go about recruiting, dealing with players, individual workouts, breaking down tape, scouting reports. All those things are things that need to be taught because it’s their first time doing it this way, not the first time in their career.

“The other thing too is, I talk a lot about our team chemistry, how we play together, chemistry on the court, chemistry off the court. I think it’s really hard to sit there and talk to your team [about that] when your coaching staff doesn’t have chemistry. Players see that stuff. I wanted to try to hire a staff where we all were going to try to make each other better, there were going to be great relationships, great respect and great passion.”

Donovan first reached out to an old friend and a familiar face for fans of Gators basketball. John Pelphrey, fresh off being fired by the Arkansas Razorbacks following five years as the team’s head coach, decided to return to Gainesville, FL where he was an assistant under Donovan from 1996-2002.

“From a familiarity standpoint, bringing John Pelrphey back first was very helpful to me because he had been with me for quite some time,” Donovan explained. “He knew me, knew Florida. I knew he could help the other guys.”

Next up was hiring another experienced assistant. Though there was no direct connection to Donovan, former St. John’s Red Storm head coach Norm Roberts became a top candidate. Like Donovan, Roberts is a native New Yorker, and the two had crossed paths as players and on the recruiting circuit. Roberts had been out of work for a year after being released by St. John’s in 2010.

“Getting the chance to hire Norm was a real big steal for us. Norm’s a high-character, a really good basketball coach,” Donovan said. “He obviously has head coaching experience under his belt at the highest level. He’s been a great guy. I’ve known Norm since we both got out of high school in New York at the same time, played against each other a little bit. Never had a close relationship but we knew each other.”

Rounding out the staff is former University of Florida director of basketball operations Matt McCall. Also serving as a team manager, head manager and graduate assistant during the seven years he worked under Donovan (2004-08), McCall left the program to become an assistant coach with the Florida Atlantic Owls under head coach Mike Jarvis. He is now back in a coaching role and with a lot more responsibilities.

“I don’t think it’s any different than when I was hired by Coach [Rick] Pitino at 24 years old at Kentucky. I started off as an administrative assistant and worked my way up and within 2-3 years was on the road recruiting at 25-26 years old. Matt’s been with me for a long period of time. He’s been involved. He was like an administrative assistant here,” Donovan said of hiring such a young assistant.

“He learned an awful lot at FAU. He had a lot to do with the players that were brought in there along with their staff. They won the league this past year. It’s one of those things when you know somebody as a person, someone that you’ve worked with and someone you’ve been around, it makes it a little bit easier. I don’t think there’s any question that he will do a terrific job for us and is more than ready to handle [it] because he knows exactly what’s going on.

“The one thing that’s great about him is he’s got great energy in recruiting. He’s very passionate about it and he’s very good. On the floor, he knows our system. He knows our style of play. He knows practice. He knows all those things. That will be OK for him.”

Donovan is not only thrilled about the character and talent of his new assistants but also how well they are already meshing both on- and off-the-court.

“It’s great to see those guys work together because you have Norm and John who have obviously recruited at a high level for a long time, and you have Matt who has been here and around and has watched us at Florida try to recruit like that,” he said. “Now you’ve got Matt’s energy and enthusiasm recruiting with the experience of Norm and John. The staff, the way it’s mixing and matching, is very good.

“It really exceeded my expectations of what these guys have done to this point in time. Having to get right into recruiting and develop relationships, having to know the players and find out our system and style.”

The hiring process was not over for Donovan after Pelphrey, Roberts and McCall were in the fold. Strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring also decided to leave the program to become the director of athletic performance with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. Donovan replaced him by hiring Preston Greene, who had spent his last three years as the assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Clemson Tigers.

“Hiring those three guys was really great. And then hiring Preston Greene our strength coach, I think we added another really good guy,” Donovan said. “I would say that, right now, our ability to work together, recruit together, coach together, I feel like we’re all on the same page and it has been good.”

If Florida’s chemistry on the court can be built the way its coaches have formed relationships off the court, the Gators have a lot to look forward to this season.

Photo Credits: Unknown, Chris Trotman

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Florida to hire Greene as new strength coach

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is set to hire the fourth new member of his basketball staff this offseason.

A source close to the team told OGGOA Tuesday morning that Donovan will hire Preston Greene as the the Gators’ basketball program’s new strength and conditioning coach.

Greene will replace veteran strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring, who left Florida to take the director of athletic performance job with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs last week.

A Clemson graduate, Greene has spent the last three seasons with his alma mater as its assistant strength and conditioning coach who led the efforts for the men’s basketball team. He has 10 years of experience running strength and conditioning programs with prior stops at both Stanford (2008-09) and Charlotte (2003-08).

Herring was the fourth member of Donovan’s staff that he has been forced to supplant in the last few months. All three of his assistants left after the 2010-11 season for other jobs and were replaced with former Gators assistant and Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey, former St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts, and former Florida director of basketball operations and Florida Atlantic assistant coach Matt McCall.

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FOUR BITS: assistants, Frazier, Lochte, Coyle

1 » Not only will members of the Florida Gators basketball team have to get used to a new trio of assistants this season, those assistants also need to build chemistry and get to know each other. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, in Lake Buena Vista, FL for an AAU tournament, got a chance to catch up with them and see how things are going. “I feel very fortunate to be part of that staff,” assistant John Pelphrey said. “Those guys are tremendous, both Matt [McCall] and Norm [Roberts]. I just want to play my role to make us be the best we can be and help Billy [Donovan] be the best he can be.” The youngest of the bunch agreed. “It’s been terrific,” McCall added. “[They are] two guys that are hard not to get along with. Just great people, and terrific coaches too.” Roberts explained how the trio has been trying to build a bond. “We’ve done a lot of things with our families,” he said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other in that way, and then being on the road together, talking constantly about recruiting and those things.”

2 » Four-star 2012 shooting guard commit Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL) is as confident as ever in his decision to play for the Gators next year. Also speaking with Brockway, Frazier reiterated that he made the right decision making his pledge two years before he graduated. “My dad told me that I don’t need to waste other people’s time if I know where I want to go,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that because they could be recruiting other guys to help their program. So I just went ahead and committed early because I wanted to be a Gator.” The No. 82 player in the country according to Rivals, he has recently become close with fellow 2012 commit point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC), the No. 57-ranked player. “I think we could be a great combo, him at the one, me at the two,” Frazier said. “He can really shoot it. It probably will take some pressure off of me, and we’ll be able to open each other up.”

3 » Just one day after setting a world record and winning his second gold at the World Swimming Championships in China, former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte went on to win two more in the 200-meter backstroke and as the anchor for the United States’ 4×200-meter freestyle relay team. He has now won four medals during the event to go along with his world record time, which marks his third on the international stage.

4 » Just days after her Gators teammates won the 2011 World Cup of Softball as members of Team USA, sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle was named to the 2011 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team. “Representing the USA has always been a dream of mine from a very young age,” Coyle said in an official release. “I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to represent my country on and off the field. I look forward to being able to compete with and against some of the best young softball players from all over the world.”

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Florida releases salaries of basketball assistants

Having to hire an entire new coaching staff after all three of his former assistants departed early in the offseason, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan brought in two familiar faces and an established veteran in a relatively short period of time.

On Friday, Florida released the assistants’ salaries via records requests obtained by The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway and the Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George.

A look at the coaching staff’s 2011 salaries:

2011 Coach2011 Salary2010 Coach2010 Salary
Billy Donovan
Head Coach
$3.3M
(3 years)
Billy Donovan
Head Coach
$3.2M
(4 years)
Norm Roberts
Assistant Coach
$235,000
(1 year)
Larry Shyatt
Assistant Coach
$250,000
(1 year)
John Pelphrey
Assistant Coach
$180,000
(1 year)
Rob Lanier
Assistant Coach
-
(1 year)
Matt McCall
Assistant Coach
$100,000
(1 year)
Richard Pitino
Assistant Coach
-
(1 year)

Pelphrey’s salary will help offset the $1.8 million Arkansas owes him for firing him with three years remaining on his head coaching contract. The school was set to pay him $600,000 annually for three years but will instead contribute just $420,000 per season.

Contract notes:
- All coaches receive a $10,000 bonus from Florida’s contract with Nike
- All coaches receive a car and other tangible incentives
- All coaches are eligible for performance-based bonuses

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5/10: Donovan introduces his new assistants

Having now filled his depleted coaching staff following the departure of all three of his assistants, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to introduce new coaches John Pelphrey, Norm Roberts and Matt McCall. Below are some choice notes and quotes from the press conference and media availabilities.

BILLY DONOVAN

» Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson remain indefinitely suspended from the team after being (at the time) arrested for third-degree burglary. “[I want] to wait to see what actually happens. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to go through. Them getting through this and finding out exactly what they’re being charged with and what’s going to happen. Once it happens, then me stepping in to react here, I’ll do. I’m disappointed with what’s happened. Once it gets resolved and once I find out what the resolution is, I can react from there.”

» Team manager Josh Adel was not involved in the activities as initially cited by police. “There was a perception that Josh Adel was ‘the lookout.’ That wasn’t the case.”

» Florida will not be going to another country to play as initially planned during the summer. Donovan said freshman center Patric Young and signee guard Brad Beal have invitations to tryout for USA Basketball in June and July. Additionally, signee forward Walter Pitchford has to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse, the legal situation has to be resolved and the July recruiting period is important.

» On the dedication of McCall: “You want to have guys that bleed orange and blue. [John] is a Gator. Matt McCall more so than anybody else out there [is a Gator]. The University of Florida really means something to him. When you look at great programs across the country, it is the pride that somebody has inside their program that really matters. For Matt being a young guy, he lives and breathes the profession, recruiting and what goes into it.”

JOHN PELPHREY

» On returning to Florida: “It’s a blessing to have a chance [to come back here]. He’s been such a big part of my life. My focus right now is on my faith, on my family and on my Florida. If I can focus on those things, then I have a chance to be at my best and be a part of a coaching team that has a chance to bring out the best in Billy and hopefully our players.”

» On Donovan bringing out the best in others: “Everybody understands how great a coach he is, how good at recruiting he is, but when you get a chance to be around him over an extended period of time, you understand he’s just a great human being. He’s hardworking. He’s a normal guy. He has no idea he’s a hall of fame coach. He does not know that and that’s pretty cool. In life, success changes people. It doesn’t for Billy. One season ends, he starts over evaluating, looking and trying to figure out a way to be better the next day. When you get a chance to spend time with him, you see it’s real, you see it’s genuine because that’s the way he is every single day.”

» On the unique opportunity to return to Gainesville, FL: “I don’t see myself having taken this opportunity anywhere else. You’re talking about a guy that there’s only one place in America that, after two and a half weeks, he would have gone back to work. I’m pretty fortunate. [Knocks on the table] You don’t have a job and then two and a half weeks later you get the only one you would take? I think it’s a miracle. I think the good lord had his hand on it.”

» On if this is a temporary job for him: “I was here before the renovations to the O’Dome. I was here before the practice facility was built. I was here before the first run to the national championship game. I’m a little bit invested. Any leader wants the guys in the organization to be invested. For me, this is not just another place. This is a special place. […] I knew this was right.”

NORM ROBERTS

» On why he chose the Gators: “There were three things that were really important to me about the next job I would take. I had opportunities to take some Division I jobs, but they were jobs I would say would not lead to much afterwards. I wanted to coach at a high level, recruit at a high level and, for my family, try to go somewhere where we would enjoy living. […] I wanted to work for a guy I really respected. Especially when you’re a head coach and you’re coming back in, that’s what you really want to do. I’ve respected what Coach Donovan has done for quite some time.”

» On why Donovan is such a good coach: “He is a tireless recruiter. He’s done a great job in recruiting and the different players that he’s recruited all over the country. The other thing Coach Donovan does that is paramount is he does a great job recruiting players. That player may have a specific skill set that he’s really good at. And then what he does is, he allows that player to play to his strengths and then encompasses that into the team as well as developing his weaknesses. That’s very unique.”

» On the players he will be coaching: “A lot of the guys I knew already [from recruiting], so it made it a little bit more comfortable.”

» On going from head coach to assistant: “Both me and Pel understand the business; this is a new opportunity for us, an exciting opportunity for us. The one thing you try to do in this business is build great relationships and have people respect what you do. We left both those places [St. John’s, Arkansas] in a lot better shape than they were when we got there.”

MATT McCALL

» On his responsibilities right now: “From a recruiting standpoint, Coach Pelphrey and Coach Roberts have really honed in on the 2012 guys. For me, I’m trying to cast a huge net out there for 2013 and 2014.”

» McCall said he has a lot of in-state connections and will help the other assistants recruit for 2012 while also looking ahead toward the future as it is important to develop relationships as young as possible.

» On what returning to UF means to him: “To be able to say ‘Matt McCall, assistant coach at the University of Florida’ is exciting. I bleed orange and blue, like Coach Donovan told you. I grew up here coming to games, always wanted to be a ball boy when I was little. This is the profession I chose. For me, it’s more than just the University of Florida. It’s Coach Donovan, one of the best coaches in the game.”

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