Donovan not envious of Gamecocks new arena
Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 11:36 p.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Billy Donovan doesn't want what he doesn't have.
When No. 6 Florida plays South Carolina at 8 tonight at the Carolina Center, it will be the second time this season the Gators have played in one of the newest basketball arenas.
Florida already played this season in Maryland's Comcast Center, a 17,100-seat arena nicer than that of most NBA teams. The 17,600-seat Carolina Center has 41 private suites and a multi-million dollar scoreboard. By comparison, Florida's O'Connell Center is a relic.
But Donovan likes his relic.
"Sometimes when you've got bigger facilities, they're not as closed in," Donovan said. "I remember The Palestra in Philadelphia was always a difficult place to play. Our place is tough to play at. Sometimes the smaller places create a different environment. When you go to a bigger, more pro-type arena, it can change the atmosphere."
It did at Maryland. The Terrapins had won 78 straight nonconference games at Cole Fieldhouse. The streak at Comcast Center ended after a count to three.
"Before the Maryland game, (Coach) Gary Williams and I were talking a little bit and he was saying that he hoped the Comcast Center would have the same kind of homecourt advantage that Cole Fieldhouse did," Donovan said.
It didn't. Florida ended the 81-game home win streak. While the Comcast Center was nicer than most of the arenas the Gators will play in this season, it didn't have the same intimidation factor that places that have a little less style and a little more history.
"We love the new facility," Williams said. "But sometimes it can be really hard to leave a place where you've had so much success."
New stadiums can be a huge lure for recruits, but Donovan hasn't exactly had much trouble along those lines. Florida's practice facility is more of a draw, because that's where the players are going to spend the majority of their time.
Donovan certainly doesn't feel any envy when he sees the new stadiums that schools like Maryland and South Carolina have.
"People around here talk about building a new facility on campus (at Florida)," Donovan said. "I like the facility we're in right now. They put a lot of work into renovating it and cleaning it up. I don't think at the University of Florida you want to be in a situation where you have a 20-25,000 seat arena. That would take away from the atmosphere and sometimes at the college level, it can get too big and it can take away from the environment."
South Carolina is 7-1 at the Carolina Center, but it's safe to say it won't know if it has a true homecourt advantage until the Gamecocks host Florida tonight. The best teams South Carolina has beaten this season are Temple and Ole Miss, two teams that aren't nearly as strong as they've been in years past.
"We've had luck at home and we've struggled quite a bit on the road," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "We'll know a lot more about this team after we play Florida. You have to hope your team can get up to play one of the top teams in the country."
New arena or not, the visitors may not be too kind.
Dylan B. Tomlinson covers UF men's basketball for The Sun. You can reach him by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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