Florida coach Billy Donovan had nothing but positive words to say about Bruce Pearl returning to coach in the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn hired Pearl last week, months before his three-year show cause with the NCAA is due to expire. Tennessee fired Pearl in 2011 after NCAA sanctions were levied on the program after he lied to NCAA investigators.
Donovan said that Pearl being hired at Auburn is good for the league.
“I had a chance to talk to Bruce,” Donovan said. “He had called me and we had talked a little bit. I’m happy for him. I think just being in the league with him for that long and kept in touch with him the three years he was out, and I think for him it was ‑‑ he went through a lot of difficulty personally internally. I think it was really hard on him.”
The Donovan-Pearl relationship is an interesting dynamic. Pearl won eight of his 1o games against Donovan and his somewhat bombastic behavior rubbed Donovan the wrong way. But the two mended fences in a final few seasons Pearl was with the Vols. Overall, Donovan is 5-8 against Pearl, winning all three meetings against the Vols in 2011.
“Bruce coming in will do a great job,” Donovan said. “He’ll certainly bring energy and enthusiasm to the league, to Auburn, and I’m happy for him if that’s what he wants to do, and obviously it is, and he felt comfortable about making his way back into coaching.
— Donovan said that sophomore guard DeVon Walker did not have any health issues in the Pittsburgh and did not play because the Gators did not encounter foul trouble. Freshman forward Chris Walker only played two minutes as the veteran UF coach shortened his rotation to seven players. “There not was a lot foul trouble,” Donovan said. “I would anticipate using DeVon in the next game. It was really more my decision than anything else. I felt like our minutes were pretty equally distributed.” After stepping up late in the season when Kasey Hill was out with a groin injury, DeVon Walker has struggled during the postseason. The Winter Haven native hasn’t scored since sinking a 3-pointer in UF’s regular season finale against Kentucky. In four postseason games, DeVon Walker is 0-4 from 3-point range with an assist-to-turnover of 2-1.