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.

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SIX BITS: Grant, Speights, Tebow, Easley, honors

1 » When former Florida Gators assistant Anthony Grant left the program a few years ago to take over the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, head coach Billy Donovan wished him luck. When Donovan left the team after the 2007 National Championship game, Grant’s name was the first called by Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley to replace the long-time head coach. However, a change of heart by Donovan thurst Grant back to VCU, where he would eventually be tabbed as head coach by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Mentor and assistant will square-off for the first time Thursday in Tuscaloosa, AL. “You never like to play against one of your friends, but Anthony and I have a great relationship,” Donovan said.

2 » Speaking of Donovan, his frontcourt players from those championship seasons (and even the year after) have been experiencing a lot of success in the NBA recently. Philadelphia 76ers center Marreese Speights spoke with the Philadelphia Daily News about how genuinely happy he is that former teammate and now Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is finding success in the pros. “He and a lot of the other guys were really good at watching out for me when I first got to Florida,” Speights said. “That meant a lot. It’s good to see him doing so well in the league, but it’s not surprising. He always has had a great work ethic, trying to improve his game in every way. He improved a lot in college, from not playing a lot as a freshman to becoming someone who could have been taken with the first overall pick.”

There are four more BITS waiting for you after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Grant, Speights, Tebow, Easley, honors

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