Pelphrey, Roberts added as assistants

John Pelphrey is returning to Florida to be the top assistant under coach Billy Donovan.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 3:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 3:24 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan made two big hires on Tuesday after an unprecedented spring purging of his coaching staff.

John Pelphrey is coming back to Florida to serve as an assistant for the second time in his career. Donovan also hired former St. John's coach Norm Roberts as an assistant, a respected recruiter with strong ties in the New York City area.

Pelphey was due to arrive in Gainesville on Tuesday night.

"He's very excited," Donovan said. "He went through a difficult situation at Arkansas, but one of the things I felt like I needed was certainly familiarity."

Pelphrey worked under Donovan at both Marshall and Florida from 1994-2002. He left to take over as head coach at South Alabama, where he led the Jaguars to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2006. Pelphrey was fired last March at Arkansas after posting a 69-59 record with one NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons.

"I know John," Donovan said. "John knows the (Southeastern Conference), and he knows what I'm going to be looking for and wanting in recruiting."

Donovan also has strong personal ties with Roberts. Both are the same age and both grew up in the New York City area. Roberts, a 1987 Queens College graduate, recruited the majority of the St. John's squad that posted a 21-11 record and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.

Roberts previously worked under Bill Self at both Illinois and Kansas before taking the head coaching job at St. John's in 2004. Roberts posted a 81-101 record in six seasons at St. John's.

"Norm is a guy that's been around," Donovan said. "He's been at Kansas, been at Illinois, been at St. John's, been in a lot of different leagues. He's had to recruit nationally."

Pelphrey and Roberts replace Rob Lanier and Richard Pitino, who received opportunities over the weekend that were too tempting to pass up. Lanier will return to Texas an assistant, where he worked previously under head coach Rick Barnes from 1999-2001. Pitino will head back to Louisville to work under his father, head coach Rick Pitino.

"The last 48 hours have been kind of crazy," Donovan said. "I think sometimes in coaching you never know about timing and how things are going to happen."

Family factors played into the decision for both coaches to move on. Lanier's wife, Dr. Dayo Lanier, served her residency at Austin, Texas from 1999-2001 and still has several friends in the area. Pitino and his wife Jill are expecting their first child next week.

"With Richard having a baby here any week, the opportunity for him to get back home and be with his family was something that was very, very important to him," Donovan said. "Richard has got an opportunity to go back to Louisville as an associate coach with the opportunity to possibly be coach-in-waiting there. That's something that has been discussed."

Florida still has one more assistant coaching position left to replace Larry Shyatt, who left to take the Wyoming head coaching job on March 31. Potential candidates include former Gator guard and Arkansas assistant Brett Nelson and Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard.

Donovan said he doesn't have a timetable to hire the third assistant.

"I certainly wanted to get two people in place right away that I thought could make a great impact," Donovan said. "There's a lot of good coaches out there. The one thing that's been somewhat overwhelming is the amount of interest, especially after Shyatt left."

With Florida mulling a possible trip to Canada in August, Donovan said he feels there will be added time for his new staff to jell with Florida's current players.

"John knows me well enough being with me for nine years," Donovan said. "Norm will get to know us, working with different people, different staffs.

"While these guys are on campus and before (the players) leave, there needs to be some relationships established."

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or Also check out Brockway's blog at

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top