Q&A: Florida coach Billy Donovan

Florida coach Billy Donovan points at reporters during a press conference at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Sunday. Florida will play Ohio State in the Final Four basketball championship on Monday.

AP Photo/Eric Gay
Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 7:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 7:29 p.m.

Billy Donovan answered questions Sunday afternoon in Atlanta's Georgia Dome in preparation for Monday night's national championship game with Ohio State.

Q: Coach, people look at that first game and see a big second-half run when Oden is on the bench. Last night Ohio State played 17 minutes against a bigger team and outscore them 24-18 while he sits. What is the right analysis of that?

A: The right analysis is they're a terrific basketball team. Good teams have a lot of different parts to rely on. They can come into the game with front-court people around Oden who do a terrific job. Othello is a very, very good player. Terwilliger is a very, very good player. They have the ability with Ivan Harris to go small. They can really change the complexion of their team based on their substitution.

I think it's a great tribute of how good Ohio State is that a guy like Oden, who is a terrific player, gets a couple early fouls and has to sit the entire half and they still go into the locker room leading and win the basketball game. Because I think everybody would agree Georgetown's front court with Hibbert and Green, Summers, is as good as anybody in the country.

The fact that these other guys maybe don't get the attention that Greg Oden gets I think is pretty says a lot about how good their front court is and how good their team is.

Q. Now that you've had a chance to study Ohio State more recently than when you played them back in December, what is different about Oden now than what you saw in December?

A: Well, I don't personally think December has anything to do with April right now. That game was played. It was played in our home court. They're totally different. We're totally different. I don't think you can sit there and make any comparisons from that game with our team. Certainly for Greg Oden, he was not healthy. He maybe had four, five, six games under his belt. Guy was still shooting free throws left-handed.

To me, I don't know what we get out of the game. I think we as coaches will watch it from a scheme preparation, but for our players this is a totally new team and a new challenge that we have tomorrow night. That's really all it boils down to. I know a lot of people want to talk about December, but December's over with. It's all about right now.

Q. What were the benefits when you were building your program of having a good football program there?

A: Well, it's everything at Florida that's good. Certainly the football program is terrific. As I said earlier, I think where there's problems on campuses with coaches is when all the focus is totally just at one sport and you can't and do not have a balance in what you need. I really felt like from day one, since I've been there, and I know in talking to other coaches on campus, they feel the same way.

The commitment that there is to having the best athletics program in the country, not just football, basketball, baseball, but also the women's side, volleyball, swimming, tennis. It's really when you're at Florida the whole university, the whole entire athletic department.

I'm sure Jeremy and the administration have a great feel for what the women's soccer program needs. I have no idea. But I do know what we need in basketball to be successful. I think that's where the relationship has been good. We can talk about things together, moving in the right direction.

But it's not all about one sport or the other. There's no question I think in today's day and age with college football, not just at Florida, but across the country, it's a huge revenue sport where you're talking about seating 95-100,000 people with the BCS and everything else.

Financially what a football program can do to any athletic program is

providing revenue to provide opportunity for a lot of other sports. Hopefully we can do the same thing on our end in basketball, is provide opportunities for other programs.

Q. The chemistry that these guys have, has that perhaps changed the way you go about recruiting because you have five guys that do have such unbelievable chemistry? And, guys, when did you kind of notice that maybe you had something special going together?

A: You always try to bring in good people. I think when you bring in good people, there's a little bit more of a focus on unselfishness, being part of a team.

But I think a lot of times, you know, if I was to look at these guys in recruiting individually, they were all great kids but they all have their own personalities. They're all totally different as people.

I could sit there, recruiting a guy like Jo, say, there is no way that he and Al Horford are getting along. You know what I mean? Just their personalities, being in a room together.

But for whatever reason, it's all meshed and gelled. I think the reason it's all meshed and gelled is because of what's most important for them. The most important thing for them is competing, being part of a team, and they enjoy winning.

So, therefore, you have guys from a lot of different backgrounds and lifestyles, a lot of different interests. But the common interest they all share, in my opinion, is they all love the game, and they all love the fact of what they're all about. They're all about the same things, but they're all different.

I'm sure Lee probably hasn't gone to bed without milk and cookies since he's gotten here. Al is his own person, quiet in a lot of ways. Taurean has his own personality. So does Joe and Corey. They all have different personalities, but they all have a great level of unselfishness. I think they always put others before themselves.

I think the thing that what's created the bond, in my opinion, is their commitment and their unselfishness towards each other.

Q. If you can take yourself and your team out of this question. As a coach, how difficult is it to see a team have a chance even to win a second consecutive national championship?

A: That's really part of the human element things I've talked about. I've always talked to our guys about getting better. A lot of times we can get so focused on the end result that you don't enjoy the process that comes with it.

People want to talk about repeating, defending, down the road, down the road. It's not hard. I look at, from my viewpoint, I'm the luckiest guy in the world because I've had a chance to coach this team the last two years, probably longer than any other coach in the country has had an opportunity to coach their team.

We got a chance to play in the last game last year. Then we had a chance to take a trip to Canada and start practice in August. I've had a chance to coach them all this year till the last game of the year again.

It's not hard. If anything, it's been really, really enjoyable and it's been fulfilling. When you're in a competitive state like we are every single game, there's always both sides of it. There's winning and there's losing.

So I don't look at it that way as much as I look at it as the process we've got to go through. You know what, we have control over the process. We have control with our focus. We have control of our unselfishness. We have control of how we play.

But there's other things, the results sometimes we don't have control over. Most of the time we don't have control over it.

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