Family affair

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Like the rest of the Gators, Florida associate coach Larry Shyatt won’t be going back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

But that doesn’t mean Shyatt won’t have some rooting interest when the tournament starts Thursday.

Shyatt’s oldest son, Jeremy, is the director of basketball operations on the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball staff, under former Florida assistant and current VCU coach Anthony Grant. VCU opens NCAA Tournament play Thursday against UCLA in Philadelphia.

Shyatt’s second-oldest son, Geoff, is a graduate assistant coach at Western Kentucky. WKU opens tournament play Thursday in Portland, Ore., against Illinois.

Shyatt himself could have easily been coaching Western Kentucky in the tournament this season. He was approached by Western Kentucky president Dr. Gary Ransdell last April after former coach Darrin Horn left for South Carolina. Ransdell was a former vice president at Clemson in the 1990s when Shyatt was an associate coach there.

“Gary is a very gracious friend of mine,” Shyatt said. “And his wife Julie is an even more dear friend to my wife, Pam.”

But Shyatt said after some initial discussions with Ransdell, he chose to stay at Florida. Western Kentucky later hired former Texas assistant Ken McDonald.

“I’m too blessed with the situation right here,” Shyatt said.

After winning back-to-back national championships in 2006-07, Shyatt has had his work cut out for him the past two seasons. Brought into the Florida staff in part for his ability to coach and teach defense, Florida has struggled defensively the past two seasons. Though Florida was a better pressing team this season, issues remained guarding the perimeter, especially in late-season losses to Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi State.

“We’re playing more matchup zone than we anticipated in the beginning of the year but a lot of that has to do with numbers, when we lost numbers in the beginning of the year due to injuries and Jai (Lucas) leaving,” Shyatt said. “That affected how we could play 94 feet as well as man-to-man. It’s not sometimes just the Xs and Os, it’s the team that we’ve got this year.”

Asked if Florida’s current personnel dictated playing zone, Shyatt responded that it had more to do with lack of depth: “I think it has to do with numbers because you have to decide at what point can you continue to run. If you continue to run on offense you might not be able to do quite as much as you want on defense.”