UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Donovans, Alfords share special moments together
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 7:20 p.m.
MEMPHIS — Bill Donovan, the patriarch of the Basketball Donovans, looked up from his barbecue lunch at the FedEx Forum and offered his characteristic smile.
“Just unbelievable,” he said. “I never thought it would come to this. We've been blessed. It's a godsend.”
If it's not enough that the elder Donovan is getting to watch his son coaching in his eighth Sweet 16 game, he's also enjoying something special this year with the younger Billy being part of the team.
The three generations of Donovans are living the dream. So is the Alford family.
UCLA coach Steve Alford's son Bryce is a backup point guard for the Bruins and son Kory, who transferred from New Mexico, is a walk-on for the team.
“It's just one of those special blessings that happens in the time of your career,” said Steve Alford. “I always think about the kid because that's the way I was first (as a coach's son). To be a coach's kid is one thing. I was a coach's kid at New Castle (Ind.) High. They're coach's kids at UCLA. It's a little different.
“You have fun with it. And I think Billy would tell you what's a lot of fun is you go to work early and you prep and you plan practices and it's all leading up to two, three o'clock when practice time is, it's a lot of fun doing that knowing there's a piece of your family that gets to enjoy that as well.”
It's not like the sons haven't been through tournament runs before. But it's one thing to be a part of them as a fan and another as a player.
It's one thing to cheer from the stands and another from the bench.
“It's totally different,” said the youngest Billy. “Instead of being relaxed, I'm on edge and as intense as he is.”
But it's more than that. Being a college coach at a major program is a full-time job that requires coaches to be on the road and not really there when they are home.
That's one reason Billy returned home to Gainesville after two seasons at Catholic University even though he'd be mostly a practice player and rarely see meaningful action at UF.
And it's why Bryce Alford reneged on his letter of intent with New Mexico once his dad left for UCLA.
“It's one of the main reasons I didn't go away to college,” he said. “Because he's a coach, he wouldn't get to see me play.
“It's always great to have your dad by your side. It's been an experience I can't really describe. But I always knew I wanted to play for my dad since I was really little.”
While William Connor Donovan rarely plays for his father William John Donovan, Bryce Alford averages 23 minutes and eight points a game. (His brother is a seldom-used walk-on).
But it's not about the minutes.
It's about having “Bring Your Son to Work Day” every day of the week.
It's about sharing moments in the handshake line rather than by telephone. It's knowing the work that is put in instead of hearing about it.
“It's cool,” said Bryce. “And to have a fathers and sons going against each other, it's crazy. Small world.”
Not too small. While little Billy and Bryce did get to know each other at the Under-19 Trials in Colorado Springs this summer (Billy went as a manager and said he rebounded for Alford during shootarounds), the coaches said their paths really haven't crossed despite having such similar careers.
Alford and Donovan played and starred in the same Final Four in 1987. Both were NBA rookies later that same year. Both started their careers as Division I head coaches at about the same time, Alford in 1995 and Donovan 1994.
Now this, head-to-head, with their sons by their sides.
“It's been great for me as a father,” Donovan the coach said. “When your children go off to college, you always wonder will they ever be back?
“He's been to a lot of NCAA Tournament games. But to have him on the locker room, on the court, part of practice every single day has been really great for me. Very, very rewarding. Very, very thankful I can share these times with him. It's been a lot of fun for me.”
Tonight, it will only be fun for one family. But the bonds that are being forged will last well beyond this tournament.
And that's what matters the most.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.