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Saturday January 19, 2013400 Victories Later, Donovan Still Adds to His Legacy with the Gators

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Billy Donovan didn’t have to sweat out his 400th career win at UF on Saturday.

 

The Gators took care of that by scoring the game’s first 11 points in an 83-52 thumping of No. 17 Missouri at a sold-out O’Connell Center.

Still, Donovan did need a towel to dry off after improving to 400-160 in his 17th season at Florida. He has junior forward Patric Young to thank for the cold shower.

In the locker room after the Gators’ sixth consecutive win, Young poured a Gatorade cooler full of cold water over Donovan.

“He didn’t see that coming,’’ said Young, who scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds before dousing the head coach. “And I didn’t hit him with the cooler like Alabama hit Nick Saban.”

When Donovan showed up for his postgame press conference, his hair was still wet and he had on a dark-blue Gators T-shirt instead of the light blue dress shirt and striped tie he wore during the game.

He didn’t seem to mind. Not after the way the Gators never let up from start to finish in one of their most impressive wins of the season.

“It was a pretty good one,’’ Donovan said. “Thankfully I didn’t end up on the carpet. Basketball coaches don’t have that happen to them very often. I tell you what that was really, really, really cold. I mean really cold.’’

One of the first people to congratulate Donovan after the win was Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who hired the then-30-year-old Donovan in March 1996 after Donovan started his head-coaching career at Marshall.

The hire ranks as perhaps the best move of Foley’s career, one that resurrected the Gators basketball program highlighted by back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.

“Obviously he is doing something special here,’’ Foley said as he left the locker room Saturday. “Who would have thunk it? We were sitting in the living room in Huntington, W. Va.,17 years ago and here we are 400 victories later.

“I told him we’re going to get 400 more out of him and then we’re going to let him go.”

There was one person on the bench Saturday who could tell the victory meant something to Donovan whether he showed it or not.

That was the younger Billy Donovan, a transfer guard who returned home to join his dad’s team and is sitting out this season.

When Donovan won his first game at UF, little Billy was 4. He will turn 21 next month.

“That’s nuts,’’ little Billy said.

He was too young to appreciate his dad’s first win, but as he left the O’Dome on Saturday, little Billy could comprehend what his dad has accomplished at Florida.

“He definitely embraces it, especially what he has built here,’’ the younger Donovan said. “I think it’s really impressive going from a football school to this. It gives the university something else to talk about.”

His son’s presence wasn’t the only reminder for Donovan on Saturday of how far he has come. Whenever he looked across the court Saturday, he saw former Gators guard Jason Williams, who was at the game with his son, watching from courtside. Williams came to UF with Donovan from Marshall.

Now 47, Donovan said whatever he has accomplished in his career is more than about just him.

“It’s much, much more a reflection on the players I’ve had to coach here,’’ he said. “That’s really what’s it about. For me to be here and be part of 400 wins – and I don’t look at them at my wins, I look at them as University of Florida wins – seeing Jason Williams here watching the game [reflects that].

“There were a lot of guys not in the building who were a part of it. I never look at those things as something I did. It’s always a ‘we’ thing. There’s a lot of people involved.”

 

Young did his part to make No. 400 memorable – on and off the court.

Donovan is one of the reasons Young wanted to come to Florida.

“He’s done everything,’’ Young said. “It’s just pretty cool being part of something like this, playing for a coach who is going to be a Hall of Famer.”

Donovan will go for win No. 401 on Wednesday when the Gators travel to Georgia.

The coach who walked off the floor after No. 400 Saturday is the same one Foley 17 years ago. He just has a lot more wins.

“He’s driven, works his tail off, he competes, he’s smart,’’ Foley said. “He’s one of the all-time greats. He’s got two banners up there to show it.”

THE DONOVAN FILE AT UF

Win No. 1 -- 80-63 vs. UCF (Nov. 22, 1996)

Win No. 100 -- 94-86 vs. Kentucky (March 4, 2001)

Win No. 200 – 80-47 vs. UCF (Dec. 3, 2005)

Win No. 300 – 68-65 at Auburn (Jan. 14, 2009)

Win No. 400 – 83-52 vs. Missouri (Jan. 19, 2013)

 

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