At 49, Billy D hitting coaching prime


Florida coach Billy Donovan turned 49 on Friday.

And while he’s already accomplished plenty at Florida, the numbers suggest if he stays at UF, the best is yet to come.

Donovan has coached UF to four Final Four appearances in 18 seasons, reaching his fourth Final Four two months shy of his 49th birthday. In comparison, UCLA coach John Wooden didn’t reach his fourth Final Four until he was 56 (he led the Bruins to eight more Final Four appearances before retiring). Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp didn’t get to his fourth Final Four until after his 49th birthday (he led the Wildcats to two more).

Yes, dynasties were more prevalent when Wooden and Rupp coach. But in a more recent example, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo didn’t get to his fourth Final Four until he turned 50, and has led the Spartans to two more since.

Overall, Donovan is one of 20 coaches in NCAA coaching history who have reached four or more Final Fours (19 if you consider two of Kentucky coach John Calipari’s Final Four appearances as vacated). There is no doubt at this point Donovan will be a Hall of Fame coach. Consider it took Jim Calhoun until he was 68 to reach four Final Fours. Jim Boeheim didn’t reach his fourth Final Four until 67. Both are in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Here’s a look at the 20 college basketball coaches who have reached four or more Final Fours, and how old they were when they reached their fourth Final Four. Donovan is eighth-youngest on the list. Those younger include his mentor (Louisville coach Rick Pitino) and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Dean Smith was the youngest on the list, coaching North Carolina to his fourth Final Four a few months past his 41st birthday.

— Jim Calhoun, Connecticut, 68

— Jim Boeheim, Syracuse, 67

— Lute Olsen, Arizona, 62

— Guy Lewis, Houston, 61

— Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV, 60

— John Wooden, UCLA, 56

— Jack Gardner, Kansas State/Utah, 56

— John Calipari, Massachusetts/Memphis/Kentucky 53

— Roy Williams, Kansas/North Carolina, 52

— Harold Olsen, Ohio State, 5o

— Tom Izzo, Michigan State, 50

— Adolph Rupp, Kentucky, 49

— Billy Donovan, Florida, 48

— Henry Iba, Oklahoma State, 46

— Bobby Knight, Indiana, 46

— Rick Pitino, Providence/Kentucky, 46

— Denny Crum, Louisville, 45

— Fred Taylor, Ohio State, 43

— Mike Krzyzewski, Duke, 43

— Dean Smith, North Carolina, 41