O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
-Walt Whitman, 1865
Gainesville, FL- As Florida Basketball ushers in a new era, a new regime under 38 year old Michael White, it is hard to grasp that our Coach, Billy Donovan is really gone. Before Billy D arrived in 1997, the Gators had reached the NCAA tournament just 5 times, after he arrived, the Gators made it to March Madness in 14 of Donovan’s 19 seasons in Gainesville.
Few men have meant to UF what Donovan has meant to the Gator Nation. The transition led by Donovan changed the University of Florida from a football school to a University that can compete for national championships in two sports. Along with the rise of the softball, gymnastics and baseball programs UF has become one the premier athletic universities in the United States.
Donovan has given UF an NBA presence as well, he has coached Bradley Beal, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Jason Williams, Al Horford, David Lee and Chandler Parsons, just to name a few.
Donovan has won 502 college games as a head coach, 467 of them coming at the University of Florida. Billy also led the Gators to their first 2 national championships, back to back championships in 2006 and 2007. The way people look at basketball at UF has forever changed under Billy, now the Gators, Rowdy Reptiles and the O-Dome are well known throughout the nation and are well respected. The work of Donovan building a national program is matched only by Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer’s work with the Gator Football program.
Coach Donovan leaves the Gators for the opportunity of a lifetime, to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder boast one of the greatest pools of talent in the NBA. Being able to work with 2 annual MVP candidates in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is an opportunity too good to pass up. This is actually not Billy D’s first crack at the Association. In 2007, immediately following the National Championship, Donovan accepted a 5 year contract from my own Orlando Magic, but later backed out of the contract and returned to Gainesville.
All in all, the contributions Billy gave UF and the expectation of greatness in the men’s basketball program he established are longstanding accomplishments that will never be forgotten in Gainesville.
Tyler Murtha ’19
All statistics from www.sports-reference.com
Photos from www.floridagators.exposure.co/the-billy-donovan-years