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The Highlights and Lowlights of Billy Donovan

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Learn more about OKC's newest head coach.

Definitely a highlight.
Definitely a highlight.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Don't follow college basketball? Me neither. Here's the scoop on Billy Donovan, and what he's done over the past 20 or so years. Hopefully you'll get a bit of a window as to what this guy can bring to OKC.


"Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin bought into defense from early in their careers, but Mike Rosario had to be coaxed to do more than play matador in 2011-12; now, he's a capable defender with active hands. Will Yeguete and Casey Prather looked like the components of a tremendous press in their freshman years two seasons ago, but now Yeguete is the heart and soul of Florida's defense, and Prather is an incredible pest. Patric Young looked for highlight plays routinely in his first two years, but has become a patient and potent post defender while retaining his ability to swat layups as an intimidating force. Even Erik Murphy, Florida's slowest player, is quite good as a help defender, and can use his height to make shots at the rim difficult.

Florida's defense succeeds because it does the things great basketball defenses do: It limits easy shots, prevents threes as much as possible, and forces turnovers that short-circuit offense."

  • Was forced to dismiss Damontre Harris from Florida's basketball team mid-season 2013. Spoke very frankly and fairly at the resulting press conference:

"He was never disrespectful as far as his attitude. He was a nice kid and never blamed anybody for what was happening," Donovan said. "We tried to help him off the court and help him with some of the challenges he was dealing with. But there was never this reciprocation of wanting to be helped or wanting to to do the things necessary."

"I think he realizes that a big opportunity for him is now gone," Donovan said. "The thing I tried to get across to him, if he has any aspirations of playing professional basketball there is not one team in this country or overseas that is going to tolerate this type of behavior, and I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t hold him accountable for these things."

At their best, Florida under Billy Donovan is fast, deep, efficient on offense, tough on defense, and experienced. The players have put in two or three seasons of learning and development, and they form a Gators team that is consistently a threat in the SEC and on the national landscape. Florida's best teams trend towards an experienced core of older players with an infusion of top young talent.

At their best, Kentucky under John Calipari is young, talented, athletic, and motivated. The players come in knowing they are among the best in the nation, and play in a system and with a swagger that allows them to thrive. Kentucky's best teams trend towards an incredibly talented core of young players with an infusion of experienced, battle-hardened upperclassmen.

Which would you rather have?

"Then came one fateful night in St. Augustine that resulted in the arrests of Murphy and fellow Florida player Cody Larson on burglary charges. Murphy had been considering transferring from Florida, and had told Donovan that he would stay just before that arrest, but it certainly could have been an excuse for Donovan to push him out the door or the impetus for Murphy to reconsider his decision. Instead, he stayed despite an indefinite suspension, and received deferred prosecution for his role in the burglary.

And then Murphy became Florida's best stretch big man since Matt Bonner."

"Back when I played, there weren’t a lot of roster sports, so a guy coming out of high school couldn’t even get on the floor in an NBA game. There used to be a time when kids in college would have to kind of wait their turn until they were juniors – learning the game their first two years and the last two playing a lot. That’s kind of gone by the wayside. Now, kids are expected to come into college as freshmen and play right away. For the great ones, they’re looking to go the NBA right away. I think so much of the culture of basketball at the high school and college level has changed."

"I look for guys who love the game. Guys who have to be committed to that time. You only have 20 hours in a week, and they have to be spent with no wasted motion or energy. You have to have guys who love to play...guys who love to play on the edge. I’d much rather have a guy a little less talented who loved to play than to have a guy with great talent who doesn’t give it his all."


  • There have only been nine coaches hired directly to the NBA from the college ranks since the 93-94 season.
  • Of those nine, only three went to the playoffs. All three of them (Carlesimo's Blazers, Pitino's Nets, and Steven's Celtics) were swept out of the first round by far superior teams. As of right now, Carlesimo and Stevens would be the only two coaches that aren't considered complete failures.
  • Accepted an offer to be the coach of the Magic prior to the 2007-2008 season. Less than a week later, Donovan had gotten out of his contract and returned to coach Florida. Donovan also signed a stipulation that he wouldn't seek another NBA job for at least five years. Donovan also went on record saying, "As long as the University of Florida would like to have me here, this is where I want to be. For my part, I want to be at the University of Florida for the rest of my time coaching."
  • Missed the NCAA Tournament AND the NIT entirely this season. It was the first time since 1996-97, Donovan's first year. Here's what Billy had to say about this season:

"Going into the year, there was an unrealistic expectation that our guys had of how good they thought they were, and I don’t think last year’s season helped with that," Donovan said of the 36-3 rampage that ended at the Final Four. "As much as I tried to get that through to them, I think it’s an area where I fell short. I could never get them to deal with how far they had to go. In November and December, I’m sure they thought they were getting to the NCAA Tournament. Now, comes the time when you deal with truth and reality.

Do you believe in Billy? Drop a comment and let us know!