At 48, Billy D measures up to coaching icons


He’s no longer Billy The Kid, but Florida coach Billy Donovan is still young in college basketball coaching circles.

Donovan turned 48 on Thursday. He’s the dean of Southeastern Conference men’s basketball coaches, with 17 years of experience at Florida, and 19 overall. But because Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley took a chance on hiring Donovan a few months shy of his 31st birthday, Donovan has managed to put together an impressive resume at a young age.

Donovan’s 450 college coaching wins before his 48th birthday are more than future Hall of Fame coaches Mike Krzyzewski (431), Jim Boeheim (391) and Rick Pitino (354) accumulated before that age.

Here’s a look at how Donovan compares to some coaching icons when they turned 48:


Billy Donovan

Wins: 450

Winning pct: .708

Final Fours: 3

National Titles: 2


Bobby Knight:

Wins: 482

Winning pct: .729

Final Fours: 4

National Titles: 3


Mike Krzyzewski

Wins: 431

Winning pct: .698

Final Fours: 7

National Titles: 2


Rick Pitino

Wins: 354

Winning pct: .734

Final Fours: 4

National Titles: 1


Jim Boeheim

Wins: 391

Winning pct: .759

Final Fours: 1

National Titles: 0



  1. The quality and character of Coach Donovan’s program can be observed on a regular basis in the NBA. Guys like Noah, Horford, Lee, Haslem, Bonner and others are not only excellent players but they also are outstanding young men with high character.

  2. Given the history of Florida basketball when Billy arrived, it’s hard to argue that he is not the very best coach among all sports in our history. Were we to carve our own Mount Rushmore of Gator Sports, Billy, Steve Spurrier and Mary Wise would be in the center. I don’t know Coach Wise personally, but what a blessing it’s been to enjoy people of Billy’s and Steve’s character on exhibit on and off the court and playing field. Go Gators!

  3. Ole Jim won a Nat’l Championship in ’03 with that a sensational Freshman, Carmelo, who went 1 and done, in all fairness Brock…
    But Billy is the man! NO QUESTIONS about it! I agree that a ‘Gator Mount Rushmore’ needs Billy, Spurrier, and Mary Wise, while Tim Walton is earning a spot, too!
    Billy ‘D’ very well could end up with as many or more Nat’l Ships as Knight and Pitino (Coach D’s mentor). Only time will tell, but I am already proud of Coach D’s legacy at Florida! GO GATORS!

  4. The consistency he’s brought to FLA basketball with a hardly recognized program before him (no slight to N Sloan or L Krueger) is what makes his contribution truly amazing. I continue to have people who see me wearing Gator gear go ‘great basketball program’, I think that says it all. People don’t understand how hard it is to have the UF brand associated with hoops…congrats Coach keep up the gr8 work!

  5. Kevin, was the anticipation of this belated birthday blog the reason why the basketball schedule has been left posted on the site for over two months after the season was over? Granted Billy Donovan is the best coach in UF history; however, I don’t think he would have objected to seeing the lacross, softball or baseball schedule on the website instead of the last ten basketball games played over two months ago.

  6. 10 years ago Gator Nation, or at least most of the folks in the Gatorsports Forum considered William Donovan a great coach. I stated he was a good coach who in time could be considered a great coach. He had strengths and weaknesses, and early in his career his greatest assets were his ability to recruit the players he wanted and his three point offense. As far as bench coaching, putting players in the best positions, player relations, defense, an interior offense, and overall basketball philosophy he had varying degrees for room for improvement.

    In his close to twenty years he has had two discrete runs at the Final Four. 2000 and I consider the two 04 championships as one, because the teams were constituted of with the exact same starters. In between those years there were plenty of 20 win seasons and several frustrating early round losses in the NCAAs to lower ranked opponents, or not making it to the NCAAs at all. NCAA tournament prowesses is what defines a basketball coach’s greatness.

    Where Donovan has grown over the years and moved down the continuum of greatness is player mix and philosophy. I have gone on record as saying at his heart Donovan wanted to be the Duke of the deep south. His player mix and style of play reflects that. He designed an offense that would suit a player like he was, short, slow, jump-shooting gym rat. The extra-pass offense that systematically gets open shots for a player like he was. He not only recruited players like him, but he featured them offensively. Nelson, Dupay, Bonner, Walsh, Murphy, Humphries, Appleby, Werner, Walker, to name most of them.

    In between the 2000 and the two title year, and several years after those years, he had a critical mass of these players leading the Gators, to the exclusion of the bigger, faster, and more athletic players he had on the team or could have recruited. During these years these player got the lion’s share of the Billy-Ball three point perimeter shots. However during the NCAA tournament because of a lack of athleticism and quickness, they could get open enough and they couldn’t defend well enough and Donovan had tournament droughts.

    The 04s were a Donovan anomaly, with respect to how they won, which was with superior athletes, who played great defense and were explosive offense in the paint, complimented with Humphries outside shooting. Which are staples of great NCAA tournament teams. After the 04s he slid back to his nature, with Calatheas and Werner lead perimeter oriented teams to little NCAA success. His last two season however he is putting an athletic team on the floor that has played consistent defense.

    Where he has room to grow even more to punch through the Elite Eight more frequently, is augmenting his offense to take advantage of players who are great athletes who come into the program with the ability to score in the paint. Billy Ball hasn’t been and that type of player haven’t been a great fit. Once he is able to make that modification of his offensive philosophy and stays the course on recruiting athletic “ballers” he will go from a very good to great coach. He is right at the door. The good news is, as well as he has done he is going to be better