I’m not telling you anything new today. It’s more of a reminder.
In Billy Donovan, the Florida Gators have not only one of the best college basketball coaches in the land right now, but one of the best ever. At 48 – with two national titles, three championship game appearances, three straight Elite 8 teams and 467 victories – Donovan is on a pace to deserve to have his name mentioned with John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Mike K and any other coach you list among the greatest ever.
To make Donovan’s record even more impressive, consider he’s the only coach listed who has done it at a school not known for basketball. That’s why he has flown somewhat under the radar.
But make no mistake about it, the Gators have a treasure in Donovan. And who knows, the best could be yet to come. This year’s team is 17-2 and has a chance to win it all.
Perhaps I’m partial to Donovan because I admire the way he has done it. While the one-and-done rule is certainly within the NCAA rules, I find it distasteful that schools prostitute their educational integrity by admitting student-athletes (sic) who they know have no interest in education. Understand I’m not blaming the athletes. I think they should be allowed to turn pro any time they choose.
Donovan is no saint and, yes, he has had a few one-and-done players and many others who have left school early. But Donovan decided years ago he preferred to recruit the athletes who needed to -- or were willing to -- spend three or four years in college and placed value on education. I truly believe Donovan enjoys the pure act of coaching as much as he does the winning and the rewards winning brings.
This year’s team is a perfect example. No doubt some of them will spend time in the NBA, but none projects to be a star at the next level. The Gators start four seniors, a rarity among the basketball elite – and Florida is certainly among the elite. Most of Donovan’s teams during his 18-year run in Gainesville have been loaded with upperclassmen.
Again, theirs is no rules-breaking by such schools as Kentucky, but Billy’s way has produced outstanding results and it just feels better to me.
And I think Gator Nation needs to occasionally be reminded of what a treasure it has in Billy Donovan.
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