Billy Donovan turns 46 next month. Another win and he’ll be in his fourth Final Four, all since 2000. Bill Self was 45 before he reached his first Final Four. Donovan’s got two NCAA tournament titles, coming in ’06 and ’07. That’s as many as Roy Williams and Jim Calhoun.
One more win for the Final Four. One more win to secure a third group of players a spot in the NCAA tournament’s final weekend.
That might be enough to vault Donovan into legendary coaching status, writes Mike DeCourcy.
Donovan erased the “recruiter-only” label after those back-to-back titles. His aura took a hit when Florida missed the Big Dance in ’08 and ’09, but it’s been restored thanks to the Gators’ impressive season that’s included an SEC title and an Elite Eight spot – not to mention building a team and teaching his players how to improve. From DeCourcy’s column:
“There were days when I was in the gym when he was pushing us and pushing us and I felt like, man, walking out these doors. The year I sat out, he was pushing me so hard … I’d even make a joke: You know I’m not playing this year, right? It really helped me.”
All the great coaches inspire these kinds of stories—of players and teams improved by the force of their will and their skills at teaching, leading, motivating.
That is the point, though: the great coaches.
Whether you buy this year’s Florida team as worthy of the Final Four or not, DeCourcy’s larger point is worth considering. Giving Donovan props for building this Florida team into an Elite Eight squad is worthwhile. He was always one of the really good ones – back-to-back! – but this is something Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or Williams usually do. They build Final Four teams.
The great ones do.
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