Florida Gators hire new basketball coach: His name is Golden. Will the performance match?

David Whitley
Gator Sports
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It’s a home run.

It’s a bunt single.

It’s a brilliant hire.

It’s a bonehead move.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Todd Golden!

How do you feel about that?

“I’m not sure who he is,” the bartender said.

As luck would have it, I arrived in San Francisco Friday for an ill-timed vacation. The news that Florida was hiring the basketball coach from the University of San Francisco had just broken. All I knew for sure was I liked the new guy's name.

Todd Golden.

Short, evocative, tailor-made for headlines. Prepare yourself for countless play-on-word opportunities in the coming months and years.

“A New Golden Era Begins,” trumpeted the UF men’s basketball Twitter feed.

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Todd Golden is not a big-name hire

The puns could get old fast, so I promise to get them all out of my system with this first golden effort.

I wanted to find out more about the man behind the name.

I called the USF athletic department to see if Golden might be there cleaning out his desk. No luck, so I asked a few random San Franciscans how they felt about losing their Golden Boy.

The aforementioned bartender was stumped. The hotel clerk apologized for not knowing the name. A lady having dinner said she was a USF alum but had never heard of the school’s suddenly former coach.

That’s not a knock on Golden. The Bay Area is vast and has a load of sports teams and stars. But the blank looks illustrate the mystery package that’s just been delivered to the UF basketball office.

Beyond the puns on his last name, nobody really knows what to expect with this hire. It could be golden. It could tarnish quickly.

I’d like to look back in a few years and say I nailed it, so I’m going to echo the social media sniping and say Scott Stricklin blew it.

A big-name winner was needed to reignite the fan base. Give me Tony Bennett or Jay Wright or Scott Drew or Mark Few. I would have vacationed in Lawrence, Kansas, if it meant I would have passed Bill Self at the airport as he headed to Gainesville.

Instead of a super-proven-commodity, Florida hired a guy who was selling ads for a living nine years ago.

Golden has been a head coach for only three years, and he went 57-36 in the West Coast Conference. Mike White had a better winning percentage in the SEC.

That said, allow me to cover all bases and say I completely understand why Stricklin went panning for gold in California.

Florida makes risky move, but not a dumb one

Golden is the quintessential Next Gen coach. He’s young but seasoned. He’s a West Coast guy but knows the SEC, having spent two years on Bruce Pearl’s staff at Auburn.

He’s a whip-smart analytics geek whose innovative offenses will awaken Gator fans from their White Era slumber. He just guided San Francisco to its first NCAA tournament in more than 20 years.

The 10th-seeded Dons lost to 7th-seed Murray State in overtime. With a smidgen more of luck, they’d have won and faced Cinderella story StPeter’s in the second round.

If they’d have won that, San Fran would be in the Sweet 16 and even Simon Cowell would be hitting the Golden Buzzer if the Dons’ coach showed up for an audition. So it's obvious.

Todd G. is good as gold. Todd G. is fool’s gold.

Those are my predictions, and I’m sticking to them.

Sorry to weasel out, but nobody knows how this will work out. It’s a risky move by Stricklin, but hardly a dumb one.

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Billy Donovan weighs in

“I think they were trying to look for a profile,” Billy Donovan told reporters Friday night as the Chicago Bulls visited Phoenix.

Before going to the NBA, Donovan had some success at Florida. You may have heard about it. White certainly did.

Donovan didn’t specifically recommend Golden, but Stricklin did seek his advice on how to revitalize the program. The search committee went looking for a hungry, cutting-edge candidate with big-time potential.

It worked when Florida hired a 30-year-old Donovan from Marshall. Now the 36-year-old Golden is moving from San Francisco anonymity to a town where everybody will know his name.

Todd Golden.

You gotta love that.

Now we’ll see if Florida has truly struck gold.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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