When I was pursuing my scholarly endeavors at the University of Florida, I somehow managed to learn a fair amount. I can only imagine how much more I could have taken in if I didn’t adopt Ferris Bueller’s attendance policy.
Part of Bueller’s philosophy was that “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That quote couldn’t be any truer than during Florida’s lopsided 67-41 victory over Tennessee the other night.
In the waning minutes, I noticed something I’m sure many didn’t pay much mind to. Gators head coach Billy Donovan had put in some of his bench players to close out the game, one of them being his son; Billy Donovan Jr.
Billy Jr. had just taken a charge resulting in Florida obtaining possession. The camera panned back to Coach Donovan sitting on the bench. As an official ran by saying something to him, Donovan smiled and gave a quick wink.
You might be wondering what the big deal is? More than likely the referee made a comment about the play Donovan’s son made and out of pure adulation for his son, coach Donovan turned into dad and expressed his joy if only for a few, brief seconds. That’s more than likely what happened but from that moment an even greater revelation struck me.
On that same day, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski; the epitome of success in college basketball had just recorded his 900th win with the Blue Devils. Coincidentally enough, Donovan had reached a milestone that very day as well; his 600th game as the Gators head coach.
In his 18 year span with Florida, Donovan has had only two seasons where his record was below .500 and that was when he first arrived in Gainesville. His .713 winning percentage is one of the highest among active coaches and out of his 20 years as a head coach, (2 years initially spent at Marshall) he has had 16 consecutive postseason appearances with 13 of them in the NCAA tournament. His 31 NCAA tournament wins are the most by any SEC head coach, even better than Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp. So far, Donovan ranks third all time in wins as an SEC coach.
Donovan’s two national championships were won consecutively, something that hadn’t happened since coach K and his Duke Blue Devils accomplished the feat back in 1991-1992. He also has three final four appearances, three conference tournament titles and has won the SEC regular season five times.
Pretty impressive for someone who hasn’t even turned 50 years old yet. In his last 15 seasons, he has recorded 20 or more wins and is averaging around 23 a season since he took over at UF. Coach K is 18 years his senior and has been coaching at Duke for over 30 years. If you take Donovan’s average wins per season (23) and fast forward him to coach K’s age (66) that puts him at around 880 total career wins, moving him into the top 5 all time winningest coaches.
I’m well aware that’s a lot of hypothetical’s and best case scenario’s but even if all of that doesn’t happen exactly, it’s still something to really admire. Florida has the potential to have something most teams and their fans clamor for.
What John Wooden was for UCLA, what Vince Lombardi was for the Green Bay Packers, what Paul “Bear” Bryant was for Alabama football. Donovan has a chance and may very well already be the type of “legend” Babe Ruth was talking about in The Sandlot.
Whether or not Donovan is able to continue coaching for another 18 years, it doesn’t matter. What Billy Donovan has done with his time at the University of Florida deserves to be praised right now. Donovan is and deserves to be considered in the upper echelon tier of coaches and it’s only a matter of time before we see his name up there with the likes of coach K.