Billy D and Stoops

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Florida men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan plans to arrive today
and root hard for the Gators when they face Oklahoma in the BCS title
game at Dolphin Stadium.

Donovan will sit with the center who helped lead his Gator team
to back-to-back national titles in 2006-07. Former Gator big man Al
Horford has a break between games with the Atlanta Hawks and was able
to land the hot ticket, courtesy of his former coach.
Donovan couldn’t make Florida coach Urban Meyer’s first BCS
championship win in 2006 because it was in Glendale, Ariz., and the
Gators had a game against Arkansas the following day.
This time around, the logistics are better. Florida doesn’t play
its Southeastern Conference season-opener until Saturday against Ole
Miss and a flight from Gainesville to Fort Lauderdale is considerably
shorter than a flight to Arizona. Meyer attended both of Donovan’s
championships.

While Donovan intends to pull for UF, he also has close ties and
admiration for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. The two met when Donovan was
first hired at Florida in 1996. Stoops was defensive coordinator at UF
at the time under former coach Steve Spurrier.

“He’s a great guy,” Donovan said. “I’m not rooting against Bob Stoops. I’m rooting for Florida.”

A
friendship was forged during their time together in Gainesville that’s
lasted for more than 12 years. Both Stoops and Donovan own condominiums
near each other on Crescent Beach that serve as getaway spots during
the summer. Sometimes, the two will spot each other jogging on the
beach and will stop for a chat.

“I’ll text him every once in a
while after games, and I’ll reach out to him,” Donovan said. “I was in
Oklahoma a year ago recruiting and they had a big win I think over
Texas. I was a ways away from Norman, but I reached out to him and we
talked. He was always very nice in ’06 and ’07 when we won two national
championships. He reached out and congratulated me, something he didn’t
have to do in that situation, but something I really appreciated.”

Likewise, Stoops admires Donovan’s coaching ability.

“Billy
is a great friend, love the guy, love the way he coaches and the style
they play and how tough he coaches,” Stoops said. “I’ve always been a
big fan and also fortunately a good friend with Billy.”