There are discussions being had about the eventual open NC State basketall coaching position on talk radio, in local pubs, and on every NC State message board on the Internet. I don’t have a lot of time to add much commentary, but I thought it would be interesting to look back at how one of the greatest coaches in the game turned a football school with very little basketball tradition into a back-to-back national title winner.
I found this story interesting on many levels:
1)because ultimately NC State may replace Sidney Lowe with a less established, though up and coming mid-major/low major coach like a Brad Stevens, a Gregg Marshall, a Cuonzo Martin, a Chris Mooney or a Scott Drew just like Florida did when they hired Billy Donovan.
2)it is a story of a coach who went head-to-head against the best programs in the country for the top recruits in the nation and won his share of those battles.
3)I had forgotten just how the upset the establishment was over Donovan not accepting his place in the pecking order of college basketball.
“The biggest thing that we had to fight, that we had to educate players on, is that this isn’t a ‘basketball school,’ ” Donovan says. “My question to them is, What does that mean? Do we bus to all our games and the football team flies? No. Does the football team have a training table while we eat in the cafeteria? No. Do they get more exposure? Yes. So, why are they on national TV? Because they’re winning and competing for national championships. Well, then, it’s pretty simple, isn’t it?”
Simple? With sneaker companies, the NBA and sports agents clouding the picture, college basketball has never been more confounding for even the most experienced hand, much less for a 33-year-old upstart trying to build a program at Florida, where Steve Spurrier’s rich and cocky football team dominates the landscape. Yet, a decade after he carved out his unlikely place in NCAA lore as a player, few seem more adept at negotiating this strange world than Donovan. Players are lining up to play for him. No coach is hotter. He won only 13 and 14 games in his first two seasons as the Gators’ coach, but last year he beat Kentucky on the road. Most important, in three recruiting seasons Billy the Kid has gone toe-to-toe with powers like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina over blue-chip recruits and come away with more than his share. All of which has stirred whispers that a legend—or an outlaw—is in the making…
…Before Donovan’s arrival in March 1996, the Gators had landed just three McDonald’s All-Americas in their history. This year’s freshman class boasts two: sharpshooting Teddy Dupay, a 5’10″ guard from Cape Coral, Fla., and Mike (Skinny) Miller, a 6’8″ swingman from Mitchell, S.Dak. Dupay, the top scorer in Florida schoolboy history, sent out the first tremor two years ago by committing to Florida in the summer before his junior year of high school. Similarly, Miller’s decision to forgo Lexington and, especially, Lawrence, for sunny Gainesville sent such a shock wave through college basketball that an enraged Kansas coach Roy Williams sicced the NCAA on Florida—and didn’t care who knew it. “I don’t care who Skinny signs with,” said Williams, after his final visit to Miller’s hometown last fall, “I’m turning Florida in.
Never mind that a 10-month NCAA investigation, completed in August, cleared Donovan’s staff of the five allegations made by Kansas. In the murky, rumor-fueled world of recruiting, the mere fact that Williams, a squeaky-clean figure whose public acts and words are usually about as dry as grain dust, openly went after the Gators was tantamount to releasing the Starr report. Even as Donovan rolled through this recruiting season, gathering another far-flung, top five class—with signed letters of intent from St. Albans, W.Va., guard Brett Nelson; Concord, N.H., forward Matt Bonner; Sarasota, Fla., guard Justin Hamilton; and Hargrave Military Academy forward Sylbrin Robinson, who is from Miami—coaches, recruiting gurus and hoop-heads speculated about the secret to his success.
Donovan, however, continues to face criticism. At the SEC Media Day gathering in Birmingham on Nov. 4 South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler, once a colleague of Williams’s at North Carolina, coyly questioned Donovan’s integrity by raising the subject of an unnamed SEC coach’s ties to Atlanta-based financial adviser Bret Bearup, who in August had bankrolled a trip to France for a team of high school stars that included Mike Miller, Nelson and Bonner. “It’s all legal, but is it ethical?” Fogler said. The thinly veiled attack—Fogler never mentioned Florida or Donovan by name—so angered Donovan that he retaliated by impugning Fogler’s courage and ethics. “I’m outraged,” Donovan said of Fogler at a press conference later that day. “He talks about ethics. Well, we’ve recruited against him. I challenge his ethics on some of the kids we’ve recruited against [him].”
I wonder if Billy Donovan with another two decades of coaching ahead of him is bored at Florida and would be interested in taking a job 25 miles from Roy Williams?
A guy can dream can’t he?