Florida Gators introduce new basketball coach Todd Golden
A young gun has officially taken over the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Todd Golden, 36, was formally introduced as the 20th head coach of the Florida Gators men’s basketball program on Wednesday afternoon from the center's atrium.
While Golden has been highly regarded for his number-driven, analytical mind, it turns out he’s a simple guy who impressed Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, as well as others who played a role in the coaching search.
“When you get the right one and the interview is over, you just look at each other and no one has to say a word,” Stricklin said. “You just know.”
Golden was quickly grabbed up by the Gators after former head coach Mike White departed Gainesville to become the next head coach at Georgia.
As far as the Gators' program, Golden said Wednesday: "We have everything we need here to compete at the championship level."
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The Gators' new coach arrived in Gainesville shortly after Golden led the University of San Francisco to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1998. And Golden and his family, who were present at Wednesday’s press conference, couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Gainesville community.
“It was something that Megan and I had talked about for a number of years,” Golden said of his wife. “Just thinking that if we had enough success at San Francisco, that probably wasn’t going to be the place for us for the next 20 years. It’s a great city, but it’s a tough place to raise a family. We were hopeful that we would be provided an opportunity to go somewhere like a Florida, where there’s more space, you can raise your family and be part of a really passionate community.”
If anyone knows a thing or two about living a life of basketball in the Gainesville area, it’s former head coach Billy Donovan. Donovan, who led the Gators to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, received a call shortly after White left Stricklin’s office on Sunday, March 13, Stricklin said.
“He’s not the head coach, but in a lot of ways, this is his program,” Stricklin said of consulting Donovan. “Obviously I want to get his thoughts, I want his insight… He’s an important part of this place. And he’s going to be a tremendous resource for Todd.”
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Golden had an opportunity to talk with Donovan since taking the job, a conversation that left Golden with goosebumps.
Donovan and the Gators’ pair of titles came while Golden was a player at St. Mary’s and Golden recalls closely following the Gators during their championship runs.
“He was so unselfish and so willing to be a resource,” Golden said of Donovan. “He talked about how passionate he and his family were about Gainesville… He considers this place home and it’s really important to him that this place is great.”
Golden said he warned Donovan that he’d be hearing from him a lot and would use him as a resource — something that should excite Gators fans.
“I want to pick his brain,” Golden said. “I want him to be big resource for me. He’s a guy I look up to.”
Youth as an asset
Having just three years of head coaching experience may sound unsettling to some fans, but Golden believes his youth may come with an advantage when it comes time to rally a roster of college men.
"That was something that myself and my staff spent a lot of time on in San Francisco," Golden said. "Getting in the weeds with these guys and making sure our relationships weren't transactional... You build that trust off the court."
Golden said knowing who the players' girlfriends are, what their social life is like and even what kind of music they listen to helps strengthen the relationship between a player and coach.
UF players had an opportunity to meet with Golden on Monday night, and Golden said he has no reason to believe those same kind of relationships that he had with his players in California can't be fostered here in Gainesville.
"Again, I listen to the same kind of music these guys listen to," Golden joked. "I'm listening to Lil Baby, I'm listening to Drake, listening to Lil Wayne... all these guys. So we're going to be able to vibe pretty well."
What will Gators look like in the future?
While Golden might eventually reach out to Donovan for guidance, Florida’s new leader already has an idea of what he wants the identity of Gators basketball to look like.
“You should expect to see a big, strong, deep roster that has a lot of skill, but not selfish players,” Golden said. “Foundationally, we will always try to be elite in three areas: defensively, rebounding and taking care of the basketball.”
Sounds simple. After all, that’s what Golden attributes to much of his perceived success that had Florida and other programs around the country knocking at his door.
“Honestly, just keeping it simple,” Golden said when asked what helped him garner attention as a Power 5 candidate. “Just trying to be a good person that worked hard, being an unselfish person that wanted to see others succeed… Just going above and beyond to try to be great in those ways.”