Donovan goes after 400th win


Florida coach Billy Donovan turned 46 in May. (The Associated Press)

Published: Monday, November 28, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said he doesn't remember his first career coaching win.

Facts

Gator GameTime

Who: No. 10 Florida Gators (4-1) vs. Stetson Hatters (3-2)
When: Tonight, 7
Where: Amway Center, Orlando
Gainesville TV: Sun Sports
Gainesville radio: AM-850

“I can't even tell you who we played,” Donovan said. “I have no idea. It was somewhere at Marshall. It was a long time ago.”

Donovan will try for his 400th career coaching win tonight at the Amway Center against Stetson in the Florida Citrus Sports Shootout. It's a number that Donovan admits “makes me feel older than what I'd like to.”




Donovan, who turned 46 last May, has amassed a 399-168 record in two seasons at Marshall and 16 seasons at Florida. He's also Florida's all-time winningest coach, with a career 364-148 record at UF that includes two national titles and three Final Four appearances.

As Donovan gets older, he has talked about cherishing the process of coaching and the relationships he's developed as much as the wins. He chuckled when he recalled his first recruiting trip at Marshall, with then-assistant John Pelphrey. Pelphrey has rejoined Donovan's staff this season.

Donovan and Pelphrey were on their way to Louisville, Ky., on Interstate 64 to watch some players when they accidentally hit a deer. The deer went through the radiator of the car, leaving the two stranded on the side of the interstate.

It was a setting, Donovan said, that was “straight out of (the movie) Deliverance.”

“John jumps over the median to the other side and he flags down this truck,” Donovan said. “This guy looks like he's about to pull out a gun. I don't know what's going on. This guy is driving us back to Huntington (W. Va.). John is in the front seat on the CB radio, trying to tell the cops we hit a deer.”

Donovan led Marshall to an 18-9 record in his first season as head coach, leading a group that he described as “a bunch of lunatics.”

“That was a unique situation because I had six seniors who were fairly talented who had really underachieved,' Donovan said. “And they made a decision to change coaches and I told them right now the jury is out on who is the problem, it's you or the coach. And I've got a feeling from being here a little bit that he's not the problem, you guys are.

“Those guys came together and they did a lot of good things. I think they won 8 games the year before and they won 18. The talent was there, it was just the chemistry, the unselfishness.”

Donovan credited his experience as an assistant with Rick Pitino at Kentucky from 1991-94 as the reason why he adapted to Marshall quickly. Donovan was just 27 when he took the Marshall job.

“A lot of times a lot of head coaches don't give assistant coaches an opportunity to really coach and I got an opportunity to coach, recruit and do a lot of different things, game preparation, individual instruction,” Donovan said. “I don't think there was any part of the game of coaching I wasn't exposed to when I was at Kentucky with him.”

Donovan had losing records in each of his first two seasons at Florida. But by his fourth year, he led the Gators to the Final Four for just the second time in school history.

“The one thing I inherited here were not a group of guys that were not overly talented, but were really, really well coached,” Donovan said. “That was really, I didn't enjoy going through it, but looking back on it, it was one of the most enjoyable teams I coached because I felt like that group really overachieved.”

The Gators have reached the NCAA Tournament in 11 of his 15 seasons as coach.

“The one thing I said when I got hired here at Florida, I felt like there were pockets of success but could we sustain a level of consistency,” Donovan said. “And obviously there's been some bumps in the road, there's been some really high moments and some low moments. But that's part of being at a place for a long period of time and I've enjoyed it in a lot of respects.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 19.6 ppg, 3.0 apg

G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 12.2 ppg, 5.2 apg

G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg

F Will Yeguete 6-7 So. 5.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 So. 10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg

STETSON PROBABLE STARTERS

G Chris Perez 6-3 So. 10.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg

G Joel Naburgs 6-4 Jr. 9.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg

G Aaron Graham 6-4 So. 11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg

F Liam McInerney 6-9 Jr. 7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg

C Adam Pegg 6-9 Jr.. 12.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Notes: Florida will be playing in the Citrus Shootout for the second straight year. … The Gators suffered a 57-54 loss to UCF in last year's inaugural Citrus Shootout at the Amway Center. … Florida has made 10 or more 3-pointers in each of its first five games and leads the Southeastern Conference in 3-pointers made per game at 11.8. … The Gators are shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range. … Florida also has outrebounded its first five opponents by an average margin of +11.4. … Erving Walker is 19th on UF's all-time scoring list at 1,391 points and 8th on Florida's all-time assist list with 403 … Walker is 26 points shy of former Gator guard Brett Nelson (1,417) for 18th on UF's scoring list.

— Kevin Brockway

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