Who’s next? Archie Miller leads 11 candidates to replace Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan

For the second time in his tenure at the helm of the Florida Gators, athletic director Jeremy Foley will be tasked with hiring a new head basketball coach, this after Billy Donovan left for the NBA after a successful 19-year run with the program.

Under Donovan, the Gators won two national titles and a bevy of league crowns, reaching new heights never thought possible for Florida basketball. Foley will be searching for a coach to help Donovan’s legacy endure and keep the Gators running as a prominent national program.

What characteristics will Foley likely be looking for as he makes this hire? Head coaching experience, for one. Most of UF’s successful hires under Foley have held their respective positions before, albeit at less-prestigious programs. Foley may also be looking for youth in order to replicate the Donovan model and bring on an up-and-coming young talent that can remain with the program for the long haul if all works out.

“Like we have with other recent searches, we will have an internal working group that will identify candidates to be our next head coach,” Foley said. “I don’t intend to put a timeline on our hire, but we will work hard to have the right person in place over the coming weeks.”

Here are 11 coaches who could be leading the Florida basketball program in 2015-16.

Continue Reading » Who’s next? Archie Miller leads 11 candidates to replace Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Walker, Pitino, Grossman

1 » The Washington Wizards announced Wednesday that rookie guard Bradley Beal will miss the remainder of the season with what the team described as a “stress injury in his right fibula.” Beal also dealt with ankle, wrist and back problems during the year, missing 18 contests scattered throughout the season (including stretches of five, six and five games) before returning on March 31 and scoring 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting (6-of-9 from downtown). He struggled in his next game on April 2, going just 3-for-11 (1-for-4 from three) and has now been shut down for the final eight games of the season. In all, Beal will miss 26-of-82 games (.317); he played in 56 and made 46 starts. He averaged 13.9 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds during his rookie campaign, shooting .410 from the field, .386 from beyond the arc and .786 from three free throw line. Beal, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, registered a career-high 29 points against New York on March 1 and was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for both December and January. The Wizards expect Beal “to resume basketball-related activities in approximately six weeks.”

2 » Florida Gators five-star power forward commitment Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) participated in the 2013 Powerade Jam Fest on Monday and wound up winning the contest, taking down other five-star recruits like Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins in the process. Check out the video below to see a recap of the event including all of Walker’s winning dunks. He and fellow five-star pledge point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) will be participating in the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game which airs Wednesday on ESPN at 9:30 p.m.

3 » Former Gators assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino, who turned around Florida International during the 2012-13 season in his first year as a head coach at the collegiate level, has decided to leave his post and accept the same position with Minnesota. According to ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, Pitino and the Golden Gophers reached an agreement on a contract after conversations were held on Tuesday in Fort Myers, FL. Pitino turned around a Panthers team that was 8-21 (5-11 Sun Belt) in 2011-12, leading them to an 18-14 (11-9) record this season. FIU even advanced to the finals of the 2013 Sun Belt Tournament where it eventually fell 65-63 to Western Kentucky, falling just short of an NCAA Tournament bid. Pitino served as an assistant coach under Billy Donovan at Florida from 2009-11 before leaving to spend a season as associate head coach under his father Rick Pitino at Louisville.

4 » Former Gators quarterback Rex Grossman has decided to continue his NFL career with the Washington Redskins, signing a one-year deal to remain with the team on Wednesday. Grosssman, who will be entering his fourth season with Washington, has not thrown a pass since 2011 and spent the majority of the 2012 campaign listed as inactive. Entering his 11th NFL season, Grossman has completed 55.2 percent of his passes for a total of 10,232 yards in his career with 56 touchdowns, 60 interceptions, four rushing scores and 10 fumbles. He started at quarterback for Chicago in 2006 when the Bears reached but failed to win Super Bowl XLI, falling 29-17 to Indianapolis.

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FOUR BITS: Pitino, Brown, SEC awards, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators basketball assistant Richard Pitino was named the new head coach for the Florida International Golden Panthers on Monday, signing a five-year, $1.25 million contract. At 29 years old, Pitino becomes one of the youngest head coaches in the country but properly noted that does not mean he is incapable of being successful in his new job. “People say I’m young, but I tell them I may be young, but I’m not inexperienced,” he said. “It may not always be pretty. It may not always be easy. But we’re going to get it done.” Pitino last worked under head coach Billy Donovan two seasons ago, leaving Florida before the 2011-12 campaign to work for his father in Louisville. “It is great to have Richard back in the state of Florida,” Donovan said in a school release. “FIU has hired a tireless worker and an excellent recruiter to build their program. I’m excited for Richard and I’m excited for FIU.” Pitino is the seventh assistant to work under Donovan and eventually be named a head coach joining Anthony Grant (Alabama), Donnie Jones (Central Florida), John Pelphrey (formerly at Arkansas), Lewis Preston (Kennesaw State), Larry Shyatt (Wyoming) and Shaka Smart (VCU).

Pitino on Donovan:: “Working for Billy Donovan was one of the greatest things I could have done. I was an assistant under my father and I really didn’t want to leave home, but Billy reached out to him. When I worked for Billy I learned so much because he wasn’t my father. They have a lot of similarities, but they are really not [the same]. They have completely different approaches on how to do things. For me to work for Billy, who has three Final Fours, and my dad, who has six Final Fours, that’s a combined nine Final Fours and three NCAA Championships. For me to be able to learn under those two guys, I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

2 » One of four players to file a lawsuit against the NFL this week, former Gators offensive tackle Lomas Brown claims – citing the recent bounty scandal surrounding New Orleans – that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions. According to the Associated Press, Brown and the three other players “do not claim in their lawsuit to be victims of [Gregg] Williams’s bounty system but cite it as the latest example of a culture that has left former players with debilitating conditions.”

3 » A pair of current Florida student-athletes – juniors tennis player Lauren Embree and left-handed pitcher/first baseman Brian Johnson – picked up SEC Player of the Week awards from the conference on Monday. The Gators baseball program also got another piece of good news as they regained their No. 1 national ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll while receiving nine-of-31 first-place votes.

4 » The Tim Tebow news cycle has not slowed down now that he is no longer in Denver. The latest New York Jets quarterback received a big donation for his charity over the weekend as a married couple pledged $100,000 just to spend a day with him. The auction took place at the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic, and Tebow himself was extremely touched at both the bid and donation. “It was very humbling, and you don’t necessarily feel worthy,” he said. “That day I feel like I’ve got to do a few extra things to be special, you know? I’ve got to try to be a little bit better.” Tebow was also the subject of a recent look-a-like contest held by the Double-A Jacksonville Sun. The winner was a Jacksonville, FL high school student named Jacob Carter who said that his grandmother suggested he participate in the event.

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NCAA Elite Eight: (7) Florida vs. (4) Louisville

Location: US Airways Center – Phoenix, AZ [Capacity: 18,422]
Time: 4:30 p.m. (ET)

SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: CBS.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Pitino
Record: 26-10 Record: 29-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -1; O/U 132


No. 4-seed Louisville, which has won seven-straight games including four in a row to win the 2012 Big East Tournament, edged out Davidson and New Mexico in the second and third rounds before registering a dominant 57-44 victory in the West Region’s other Sweet 16 game over No. 1-seed Michigan State. The Cardinals went 10-8 in their conference this season and split a pair of match-ups against SEC opponents, winning at home against Vanderbilt and losing on the road to Kentucky. Louisville is led in the frontcourt by Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan, who combine to average 18.5 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. The Cardinals only double-digit scorers are a pair of guards in Kyle Kuric (12.9 points per game) and Russ Smith (11.4 points per game), though the team has six players who average at least nine points.


» Florida is making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and 12th under Donovan. The Gators are 32-12 all time in the event (28-9 under Donovan) with two national titles in three championship game appearances and four trips to the Final Four. Florida is making its sixth ever and second-straight Elite Eight appearance and is hoping to earn its fifth trip to the Final Four.
» Louisville is making its 38th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and ninth under Pitino, who has led the program to the event six years in a row. The Cardinals are participating in their 12th Elite Eight and are hoping to advance to the Final Four for the ninth time in the program’s history.
» UL leads the all-time series against UF 7-1. Donovan is 0-2 against Louisville but 17-9 against the Big East since taking over the program.
» The Gators are 4-1 all-time in the Elite Eight and are in the event for the fourth time in the last seven years (2-1).
» The Cardinals are 8-3 all-time in the Elite Eight (1-2 under Pitino) and are in the event for the fourth time in the last eight years.
» Donovan is 0-6 all-time against Pitino.
» No. 7 seeds are 0-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight since 1985.
» Florida is the first team in the history of the NCAA Tournament to score more than 70 points and allow 50 points or fewer in its first two games.
» No team that has allowed fewer than 155 points in their first three NCAA Tournament games in the shot clock era (1986-present) has lost in the Elite Eight (3-0). The Gators have allowed 153 points through three games.
» Florida has made a three in 687 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators have registered a school record and nation-high in three-pointers this season with 349 over 36 games; the 9.8 treys per game is No. 1 in the country.
» All five of UF’s normal starters are averaging 10.2 points per game or more.
» Florida is 19-2 (two losses to Kentucky) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and are just 7-8 when the margin is even or negative.
» The Gators are 239-39 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game and 291-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» UF is 6-6 against the NCAA Tournament field with four losses coming against No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Syracuse) and one to a No. 2 seed (Ohio State). Conversely, UL is 13-8 against the same field with three losses to No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Syracuse) and one to a No. 3 seed (Marquette).
» Florida and Louisville each have an ace up their sleeve heading into Saturday’s contest. The Gators and Cardinals traded staff members in the offseason with former UF assistant Richard Pitino going to UL as an assistant and Louisville team manager Billy O’Meara heading to Florida as assistant video coordinator.
» The Gators are shooting 77 percent from the free throw line in the postseason and have taken at least 15 attempts from the charity stripe in four of the last five games.
» Florida’s defense has improved immensely in the NCAA Tournament. UF’s three opponents are averaging just 51 points (with no team scoring more than 58) while shooting 31 percent from the field and 21 percent from beyond the arc.
» Louisville’s NCAA Tournament defense has also been impressive. UL has held their three opponents to an average of 54 points on 35 percent shooting from the floor and 22 percent from downtown.
» The Gators’ three-point shooting, however, has been less than impressive in the tourney. The Gators are averaging just seven treys per game (down from 10 during the regular season) and are shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc.
» The Cardinals knocked off No. 1-seed Michigan State for the opportunity to play in the Elite Eight. Louisville is on a seven-game winning streak dating back to March 7 which includes victories over six NCAA Tournament teams including MSU, Notre Dame, Davidson, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Marquette.

Read the rest of this preview: Florida back to Elite Eight / Donovan vs. Pitino
Continue Reading » NCAA Elite Eight: (7) Florida vs. (4) Louisville

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Elite Eight: Florida vs. Louisville – Early notes

Following consecutive victories in Sweet 16 action on Thursday evening, the No. 7-seed Florida Gators and No. 3-seed Louisville Cardinals set in stone their match-up in the West Region’s Elite Eight as part of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. live on CBS. Below is a post-game video along with some early notes on the game.

The video below is courtesy of UF’s GatorVision.tv.


» Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who played under Louisville head coach Rick Pitino at Providence and was an assistant coach on his staff at Kentucky from 1989-1994, is 0-6 all-time against his mentor.

» Donovan and Pitino each have an ace up their respective sleeve for Saturday’s contest as the Gators and Cardinals traded staff members after last season. Former Florida assistant Richard Pitino is now an assistant with Louisville while former UL team manager Billy O’Meara is now UF’s assistant video coordinator after spending five years working under the elder Pitino.

» Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has become more aggressive and is averaging 17 points per game on 54 percent shooting (43 percent from three) with 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 blocks in the 2012 postseason.

» Florida as a team is hitting 77 percent of its foul shots in the postseason and has taken at least 15 attempts from the line in four of the last five games.

» The Gators’ defense has improved immensely in the NCAA Tournament. Florida’s three opponents are averaging just 51 points (with no team scoring more than 58) while shooting 31 percent from the field and 21 percent from beyond the arc.

» UF’s three-point shooting, however, has been less than impressive in the tourney. The Gators are averaging just seven treys per game (down from 10 during the regular season) and are shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc.

» The Cardinals knocked off No. 1-seed Michigan State for the opportunity to play in the Elite Eight. Louisville is on a seven-game winning streak dating back to March 7 which includes victories over six NCAA Tournament teams including MSU, Notre Dame, Davidson, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Marquette.

» Louisville’s NCAA Tournament defense has also been impressive. The Cardinals have held their three opponents to an average of 54 points on 35 percent shooting from the floor and 22 percent from downtown.


Stick with OGGOA over the next two days leading up to the Florida-Louisville game.

Photo Credit: Rich Clarkson/Sports Illustrated

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FOUR BITS: Two days of ESPN, Pitino’s new job

1 » The Florida Gators were all over ESPN on Wednesday with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and senior C Mike Pouncey making appearances. Below are videos of the interviews conducted with Haden and the Pounceys on First Take by Jay Crawford and Dana Jacobson:

2 » The Gators-on-ESPN theme will continue Thursday with head coach Will Muschamp being put through the “car wash” ringer in Bristol, CT. His Thursday schedule, according to the University of Florida is as follows:

10:20 a.m – SportsCenter (LIVE, ESPN)
11:05 a.m. – First Take (LIVE, ESPN2)
11:45 a.m. – The Herd (LIVE, ESPN Radio)
1:00 p.m. – ESPN U College Football podcast with Ivan Maisel
3:30 p.m. – College Football Live – (taped, ESPN2)
4:00 p.m. – SportsNation (taped, ESPN2)
4:10 p.m. – SportsCenter (LIVE)
1-4 p.m. – Scott Van Pet Radio Show (taped, ESPN Radio)

3 » Though former Florida assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino will indeed be leaving the Gators for a job under his father with the Louisville Cardinals (if a deal can be worked out), he will not be named the head coach-in-waiting, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal’s C.L. Brown. “That’s not the way I operate,” athletic director Tom Jurich said. “I would never put that kidn of pressure on him, and I don’t think Rick [Pitino] would want that kind of pressure on him.” The older Pitino said his son rejoining his staff is” far from official” though it is in the works.

4 » Former Florida basketball assistant Lewis Preston will be named head coach at Kennesaw State Owls, according to FOX Sports. Preston has been an assistant with the Penn State Nittany Lions since 2008.

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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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4/12: Donovan on assistants leaving, new hires, recent arrests, playing in Canada

In addition to announcing the hiring of two new assistant basketball coaches, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Tuesday to discuss a number of topics about his team including 2010-11 assistants leaving, the potential of playing in Canada and how he is going to deal with the recent arrests hovering over the team.


No matter the situation, it is difficult for any head coach to lose his entire staff – especially when it occurs over a two week period with a pair of assistants moving on in a two-day span. However, Donovan understands that Richard Pitino and Rob Lanier both had opportunities that they could not pass up.

“The last 40 hours have been kind of crazy. Sometimes in coaching you never know about timing and how things are going to happen. About 10 days ago I lost a really, really dear friend and a great coach in Larry Shyatt, and then here over the weekend two situations came up for both Richard Pitino and Rob Lanier,” he explained. “Richard’s got an opportunity right now to go back to Louisville as the associate head coach with an opportunity to possibly be the coach-in-waiting there. That’s been discussed with him. […] Rob Lanier – he and his wife have very strong ties in Austin, TX. Kind of the same situation in Texas, they’ve maybe done this before in football, but there’s a strong possibility he can maybe be coach-in-waiting in Texas. They’ve talked about that.”

Both moves are not only professional but personal as well. “Everybody knows my relationship with Coach [Rick] Pitino, his father, and the way I feel about him,” Donovan said. “With Richard having a baby here any week, the opportunity for him to go back home and be with his family was something that was very, very important to him. He did a great job, and I feel sad that his stay was only for two years. I’ve known him since he was four-years-old, and our relationship has been close. To get an opportunity to work with him like that meant a lot to me, but I’m also excited for him that he will be reunited with his family and be reunited with his dad.” He shared similar information about Lanier. “Another thing for him was the family dynamic of his wife playing a large factor in this decision. As all wives do in this coaching profession, they make incredible sacrifices for their husbands to be able to coach. The opportunity to go back to a lot of very, very dear friends and close friends – and the opportunity to possibly be the head coach at Texas someday – was an opportunity Rob really felt like he needed to take.”


With a completely empty staff in such a short time period, Donovan had to act fast. The first hire was easy, bringing back longtime assistant and former Arkansas Razorbacks head coach John Pelphrey. Already in town on Tuesday, Pelphrey brings a sense of stability to the program. “One of the things I felt like I needed was familiarity,” Donovan said. “Bringing some familiarity in someone back here that knows me, knows Florida, understands the SEC and understands the program is important.”

Next he reached out to former St. John’s Red Storm head coach Norm Roberts, who was working for SportsNet New York last season after being fired in 2010. “Norm is a terrific recruiter, very high character person, very well-respected. He will be great for our program, our team, our kids,” Donovan said. “He has an impeccable reputation and is a great guy. […] He’ll be a tremendous influence on a lot of these guys with the team.” Roberts will be in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday to begin work.


Asked if he was prepared to hire someone for the third assistant job, Donovan said he has plenty of work to do in order to narrow the extensive list of candidates down and eventually choose someone. “I’m looking at a lot of other people in that third spot. I don’t know who that’s going to be right now,” he said. “I wanted to get two people in place right away that I thought could make a great impact. There’s a lot of good coaches out there. The one thing that’s been somewhat overwhelming and really positive is the amount of interest there’s been, especially when Larry left.”

The recruiting period begins on Friday and both Pelphrey and Roberts will hit the road immediately. Donovan will not rush to hire someone just to keep the seat warm. “That’s one thing about this profession. Sometimes you never know about timing and opportunities,” he said.


Before discussing the coaching changes, Donovan made a statement about the recent third-degree burglary arrests of forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and Cody Larson. “I know there was some very unfortunate events, that I was very disappointed in, that took place this weekend with Cody Larson and Erik Murphy,” he said. “I made a statement that both guys are suspended right now from our team. I really can’t take any questions and cannot talk about it because obviously it’s ongoing. All I can say is I’m disappointed in those guys. They’re disappointed in themselves. And we’ll have to wait and see what happens going forward.”

Though he mostly refused to discuss the situation in detail, he expanded on his comments at the end of the press conference. “I want to find out if what was out there, how that plays itself out. I don’t know where I’m at until I find out more,” Donovan said. “I talked to both of them yesterday and told them upfront that I was not in a position to talk about what they were going through. They’ll have to get legal representation. They’re going to have to make some family decisions and do some things. I’ve got to see the way all this plays out. Certainly the decision they made was very disappointing. The fact that they were arrested was very disappointing. For that, they’re going to be suspended here from all activities. That will probably be something I’ll have to make a decision on once all that’s settled.

“The kids know how I feel. We’ve been fortunate here that we haven’t had a lot of that kind of stuff. Sometimes those things happen. At the end of this process, I believe the truth is going to come out exactly what happened. And then from that truth, I’ll have a chance to react a little bit.”


In order to get some extra (NCAA-acceptable) practice in over the summer, Donovan said he may take the team on a trip to Canada in August. Teams are allowed to take a trip out of the country once every four years, according to NCAA regulations. Florida would get 10 practices beginning in the end of July, something Donovan believes could help in the transition period of losing three starters and gaining (by then) three new coaches.

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