TWO BITS: Florida vs. VCU, Horschel, DiMarco

1 » According to head coach Shaka Smart (via the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s Tim Pearrell), the VCU Rams will serve as Florida Gators basketball’s opponent for UF’s annual secret scrimmage ahead of their exhibition contest and the 2014-15 regular season. VCU will travel to Florida for an on-campus scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 1. The Gators took on Georgia Tech (in Valdosta, Georgia) in 2013, faced Rollins College in 2012 and squared off against UCF in 2011. Playing against Smart will mark the second time in four years that head coach Billy Donovan will face one of his former assistants (Donnie Jones, 2011) in the closed scrimmage.

College basketball teams are allowed to play a combination of two total scrimmages or exhibition games, and Donovan has always opted for one of each. UF will play its exhibition game against Barry University at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Florida vs. VCU, Horschel, DiMarco

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Donovan returns as USA Basketball U19 coach

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been retained to continue leading USA Basketball during the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship set to take place from June 17-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp two summers ago and head coach of the team that won the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship last summer, will represent his country as a head coach in international competition for the second time in his career. His coaching staff, which included Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, is also set to return.

“It’s such an honor to have this opportunity to represent our country with USA Basketball once again, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Donovan said. “Mark Few and Shaka Smart are both outstanding coaches. I have tremendous respect for them both and am glad for another chance to coach alongside them.”

The Donovan-led Americans breezed through last year’s event, amassing a 5-0 record and winning games by an average of 38.6 points to win the gold medal and qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. USA Basketball hopes to see the team continue its success with Donovan at the helm.

“Our 19-and-under team is going to have as good a coaching staff as there is in coaches Donovan, Few and Smart,” said Jim Boeheim, Syracuse head coach and chair of the 2009-12 Junior National Team Committee. “It’s going to be a tremendous advantage to have the same staff that led the 18-and-under squad a year ago.”

Donovan will begin coaching the team on June 14 in Colorado Springs, CO as 25 players begin a five-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with only 12 earning spots on the roster.

The United States will begin the event in Group D along with China (FIBA Asia U18 gold), Ivory Coast (FIBA Africa U18 silver) and Russia (FIBA Europe U18 fourth place). The gold medal game is scheduled for July 7.

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Donovan named head coach of USA Basketball

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been selected to lead USA Basketball during the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship from June 16-20 in Brazil.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp last summer, will represent his country as a head coach in international competition for the first time in his career. He chose Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few as assistants for his coaching staff.

“It’s always an honor to be selected to represent your country, and I’m incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be a part of USA Basketball,” he said in a statement released by the school. “I have great respect for Shaka Smart and Mark Few, and I’m looking forward to working alongside them.”

Donovan will begin coaching the team on June 5 in Colorado as training camp opens before narrowing the roster down to 12 prior to getting on a plane for Brazil.

It will be interesting to see if any of the Gators’ 2012 commitments join USA Basketball for training camp or make final cuts for the team.

Florida sophomores center Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin tried out for the U19 team in 2011 though only Young made the final cut.

The United States will go up against seven other teams (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) in an attempt to win the tournament and qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in June of next year. Donovan is not guaranteed to be the head coach of that team should USA Basketball advance.

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Moultrie, Fowler, Donovan

1 » Despite well-documented problems off the field (marijuana arrests) and a number of questions about his maturity (four children under the age of four supposedly by three different women), former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins continues to be a hot name for teams looking for secondary talent in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Detroit Lions have recently emerged as a team in serious contention for Jenkins’s services with the No. 23 overall pick. However, the team and its front office are undoubtedly doing their due diligence on Jenkins. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions met with Jenkins at the 2012 Under Armour Senior Bowl and “are expected to host him on a visit” soon. When asked about him in particular, general manager Martin Mayhew played coy: “Wouldn’t you like to know that?” he said. “Like I said, we’ve got a lot of work to do in the process, and we haven’t done it all.”

2 » Florida senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie picked up a second weekly award on Tuesday as she was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week for her dominant performance the prior weekend. Moultrie went 8/11 with two home runs, three doubles, four RBIs, six runs and a stolen base as UF swept Arkansas on the road. She was also named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts.

3 » In a question-and-answer session with ESPN, Gators five-star defensive end/Buck linebacker commitment Dante Fowler, Jr. divulged some specifics about his personality and excitement to don the orange and blue sooner than later. Fowler noted not only that he recently got some advice from junior Buck LB Ronald Powell but also that he is “actually like a big teddy bear” instead of a “big, mean person” that some think he is just because he plays football. “People might say that I’m kind of shy because I put my head down when I talk and stuff,” he said. “But I’m a big teddy bear. My favorite TV show is iCarly. I’m going to be a big teddy bear off the field, but on the field I’m all business.”

4 » USA Today has released a compiled list of the salaries of the 68 head coaches participating in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida’s Billy Donovan came in No. 4 on the list in terms of total pay, earning $3.64 million for 2011-12 with a maximum bonus of $454,000. Though Donovan’s salary and bonuses are high, they are very much in-line with what Kansas’ Bill Self ($3.63M, $425K max bonus) and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo ($3.60M, $425K max bonus) bring in annually. The only men above Donovan are Kentucky’s John Calipari ($5.39M, $850K max bonus), Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($4.81M, $575K max bonus) and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($4.70M). Alabama’s Anthony Grant ($1.84M, $415K max bonus) is ranked No. 18 on the list and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart ($1.21M, $621K max bonus) checks in at No. 30.

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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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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.

OUT WITH THE OLD…

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.”

…IN WITH THE (KIND OF) NEW

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.

THIRD ASSISTANT POSITION REMAINS VACANT

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.

DISAPPOINTED IN MURPHY, LARSON FOR ARRESTS

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.”

OH, CANADA

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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Billy Donovan praises Grant, Pelphrey, Smart

Many successful head coaches in a variety of sports are praised as having extensive coaching trees of former assistants who have gone on to succeed with other teams. Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan normally escapes such praise but was questioned about three of his former assistants who led major programs in 2010-11.

Not only did the two compete for the Southeastern Conference regular season title, Donovan and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant were also the leading candidates for 2011 SEC Coach of the Year. The coaches and the Associated Press recognized him with the honor while Grant was given the award by SportingNews.

One thing Grant – and more specifically his team – did not receive was a berth to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, a development that confuses Donovan.

“I feel bad for Anthony, and I feel bad for our league because I really thought we had an opportunity [to get six teams in],” he said on Monday. “Everybody talks about the difference between the East and the West, and with Georgia getting in as a 10 seed. […] Alabama had more wins against the East than Georgia did, and they beat Georgia twice in head to head competition. I just thought not that they should have gotten in over Georgia. I think Georgia should be in. I thought Alabama should have gotten in.”

Continuing the legacy Grant left at his previous stop with the Virginia Commonwealth Rams is fellow former Donovan assistant Shaka Smart. VCU will complete in a play-in game on Tuesday to earn a berth into the tournament.

“I was very happy for him. He’s done a great job. He’s a great guy,” Donovan said of Smart. “He played a good schedule. He’s had some good quality wins in the non conference. They came up a little bit short in the conference tournament. But for him to be able to get in, that was terrific. I was really happy for him.”

Donovan was understandably not happy for John Pelphrey, who was fired as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks around the same time Donovan was competing for the 2011 SEC Tournament Championship.

Stan Heath I think took two teams to the NCAA Tournament. And they make a change. Then John goes in there and goes to the NCAA Tournament with all of Stan’s players and does a good job coaching them. He’s in his third year with his entire team returning with a top-five recruiting class, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Donovan said.

“At Arkansas they’re going to have to make a decision. At some point they’re going to have to let whoever is in there be able to do the job.”

He remained confident that Pelphrey would land on his feet elsewhere as the man in charge. “John’s a good coach, and he will definitely be somewhere,” Donovan said.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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