One thing that is great about the NCAA Tournament is the access we get. You end up getting more than you can possibly use. But here are a couple of stories from Billy Donovan I wanted to share that we couldn’t get into the paper.
First, on Erving Walker’s first trip to Gainesville:
“He was probably 5’4″. Yeah, his high school coach I’ve known for a long, long time. I was playing CYO basketball in elementary school when he was coaching, and obviously Bob Oliva was at Christ the King for a while. He told me about this kid and he was going to come down for camp for a couple days and he was going to come with his assistant coach, and ended up coming down there. I called him on the phone, I was like you’ve got to be kidding me. I mean, like how about sending me like Derrick Phelps and Khalid Reeves and guys like that. I mean, call me when you’ve got one of those guys. But I know we’re buddies here and you’re trying to have me take a 5’4″ guard. I think he may have been a sophomore at that time. He’s like, Billy, I’m telling you this kid is tough, he makes big shots, he’s a great competitor, you’re going to love him. So I kind of followed him because I knew Erving had a strong interest, and then all of a sudden I started to watch the guy and he’s playing against Rice, Kemba Walker, playing against a lot of really good players in New York City and saw him on the AAU circuit and there was something about him that he learned to overcome his size, and then he obviously had a huge growth spurt and he went from about 5’4″ to about 5’8″.”
The second story came when he was asked how long he would continue to coach:
“Oh, I have no idea. You know, as long as I continue to love it and enjoy it, you know — I talked to Urban Meyer about this. When you have a chance to be a part of two national championships, you realize that the trophy brings no value to you, and what I mean by that is there’s a perception publicly that all of a sudden your life is going to change, okay, and maybe there’s more attention, maybe you can go on more talk shows or TV shows, but really it doesn’t necessarily bring this value to your life. It’s an illusion. And what you find out is where the joy is is in coaching, is going through the process with a group of guys where you’re trying to accomplish something bigger than yourself that you cannot accomplish by yourself. I couldn’t accomplish a national championship by myself. It took an administration, it took players, it took assistant coaches. That is the fun part, when everybody gets together on a similar cause and focus, and all of a sudden now you make that ascent to doing something special and you realize you’re a part of something special because you realize I can’t do this by myself. So how long? As long as I feel like that, I would love to do it.”