To hear Florida coach Billy Donovan and Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie speak Monday, one would think both were auditioning for the mutual admiration society.
Donovan said Gillispie is doing a “terrific job” at Kentucky while Gillispie referred to Donovan as “a future Hall of Fame coach.”
The relationship didn’t appear as rosy during last summer’s recruiting period, when securing commitments from younger and younger basketball players came into question.
To review, after Gillispie was among a group of coaches (USC’s Tim Floyd being another) to nab commitments from an eighth-grader (Lake Sherwood, Calif. guard Michael Avery) and a ninth-grader (Greenfield, Ohio forward Vinny Zollo.), the National Association of Basketball Coaches drafted a recommendation asking coaches not to secure commitments from players before their junior years in high school.
Two weeks later, Donovan secured a commitment from Austin Rivers, a ninth-grader from Winter Park and the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. In defense of the commitment, Donovan said there was a difference in developing a relationship with a player in on-campus camps from “working seventh and eighth-grade camps.” Gillispie fired back he was a “company guy, but wasn’t going to get beat.”
It wasn’t quite Lane Kiffin-Urban Meyer, but you sensed a little back-and-forth between the two coaches. Has it stopped? In discussing his philosophy on recruiting younger players, Donovan said Monday:
“(West Virginia native) Brett Nelson came to basketball campus when I was at Marshall for two straight years when he was in seventh grade. I probably went to go watch him play in ninth grade, 10th grade because there was a relationship established there. I probably would not go see a ninth-grader in California or Detroit or Chicago but I think you’ve got to know what’s going on in your backyard.”
Hmm. Avery, Gillispie’s eighth-grade commit, is from California.
Of course, Gillispie snagged Patrick Patterson away from Florida at the 11th hour. Patterson is the missing piece to Florida’s frontcourt problems. With Patterson, the Gators would be a potential Final Four contender. Without Patterson, Kentucky would be in far worse shape in its rebuilding process.
With Billy D and Billy G, I’m sure there will be more recruiting battles to come.