One of the subplots of Florida’s NIT quarterfinal game against Penn State is the return of former Florida assistant coach Lewis Preston.
Preston’s tenure at Florida was brief (2006-08) considering several of Donovan’s prior lieutenants had stayed for longer periods. Donovan and assistants Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones spent more than 10 years together before Grant left to become a head coach at Virginia Commonwealth in 2006. A year later, Jones left to become a head coach at Marshall.
Donovan said he was pleased with the job that Preston did at Florida and understood why he left for Penn State.
“I think it was great for Lewis,” Donovan said. “I think my job and my responsibility here for any coach is to put guys in a situation that they can be successful. I think the dynamics of our staff here with Rob (Lanier) being a former head coach (at Siena), Larry (Shyatt) being a former head coach (at Clemson and Wyoming), with some of the success we’ve had here, with losing some assistant coaches, I think one of the things that happens is you want everybody on your staff to be in a position where they grow and take on responsibilities.
“I’ve known Ed DeChellis for a long time at Penn State. He’s a great guy, and I think there was a great opportunity for Lewis there to grow in a lot of different ways and maybe take on different responsibilities that he was going to have there. And I give him credit for even recognizing that some of those things for him were going to challenge him in a different way as a coach and he’s done a great job there for them. I know Ed loves him. I loved him here. He worked really hard here for us.”
Donovan said that Preston’s tenure at Penn State is another step in what he believes will end up with Preston becoming a head coach somewhere in the future.
“Although his tenure was short here, he did do a great job,” Donovan said. “He was very loyal, he’s a great family guy. He’s going to be a good coach.”