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Gators coach Billy Donovan is preparing his team for the start of the SEC Tournament later this week in Atlanta.

Monday March 10, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Gators coach Billy Donovan is preparing his team for the start of the SEC Tournament later this week in Atlanta.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, March 10, 2014, Press Conference Transcript

 

Head coach Billy Donovan held his weekly press conference on Monday and looked back at the Gators’ regular season championship and ahead to the upcoming SEC Tournament.

 

On if the SEC Tournament is extra motivation:

“I don’t look at it that way. It’s the next step in our season right now. The regular season is over with. Everybody in the league starts out and it’s 0-0. It’s kind of a new season, so to speak, over a five-day event. We have some time to prepare and get ourselves better. We will take on with the next challenge at a neutral site against teams that we might not have seen in some time, teams that have gotten better and improved. I think our guys are excited and understand that. All that really matters is the first game that we play on Friday. That’s all that matters right now. We don’t know who we’re going to play, so it’s a little bit of a unique situation. At this time of the year, you always have an idea of who we’re playing next and you can start the preparation. That’s not the case here. With this tournament we play the winner of that game on Thursday [Texas A&M/Missouri] and we’ll have to make sure we’re really ready to play. The scouting part of it is hard because you’re not going to find out who you’re going to play until late that afternoon on Thursday.”

 

On days off to recharge:

 “We’re going to meet and do some things today. We’re not going to practice today. We play Friday and right now we’re in a one-game event. We only have one game, that’s all we’re assured of. We will have some time to look into some areas – where to put our focus both offensively and defensively, execution and those kind of things. We’ll work on those things and hopefully put behind what has taken place over the last nine weeks. That journey of playing an 18-game league schedule is behind us now. We’ll have Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We’ll have three solid days to practice. I would like for these guys to be able to come back to practice tomorrow energized, excited and enthusiastic to get ready to play.”

 

On if the tournament setting changes anything:

“I think the one thing you want to do for us is to take trends – trends inside of our team and make our guys aware of some trends they could be positive or negative and where we can improve on those trends and where we can get better. I think this is a time where, for us right now, the next couple days is a little different because there’s not going to be any scouting that’s going to be in play. You could sit there and try to look at Texas A&M or start to try to evaluate or guess who you’re going to be playing in a game like that. You could want to look at Missouri and try to figure them. Ultimately, that game has to be played on Thursday and then we’ll figure out who it is. You can get caught wasting a lot of time saying, ‘Tuesday we’re going to look at Missouri and then Wednesday we’re going to look at Texas A&M.’ You’re throwing stuff out to guys that may not even happen. To me, the point is going forward, what do we have to do that’s going to definitely take place in the game on Friday, regardless of who we’re playing against? That’s where the focus comes on us and what we need to do better and focus in on to try to improve. There are a lot of areas we can do to be able to do that. The biggest area for us is to get emotionally, mentally and psychologically past what happened on Saturday. We’ve got to get past that. That starts this afternoon, getting past that and moving on and focusing on the next thing in front of us.”

 

On if there is any different physical preparation with a chance for three straight games:

 “I think this time of year, as a coach between the strength coach and trainer, you’re always evaluating where your team is at physically. There’s a fine line between your team looking tired and it not being physical fatigue, but it being mental fatigue. We are probably no different than a lot of teams right now. The two-and-a-half-hour practices we had back in October, we’re not doing that now. We’re doing a lot of skill development, skill work, execution and working on our defense getting pick-and-roll coverages down where we’re understanding rotations in the press. We’re trying to shore up those areas where we can get better at as a team. This time of year, I never go into the tournament saying ‘OK, we’ve got to practice here on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday because we could be playing on Sunday.’ All we get is one game. We’ve got to worry about the next game if we’re fortunate enough to move on past that.”

 

On comparisons of the 2006 and 2007 title teams to this year’s team:

Well, I think, and I've said this before, I think the talent level is totally different. I think when you look at the talent level, if you're looking at the talent level in terms of guys going on and playing in the NBA, you know, we had three guys get drafted in the top 10. And then coming off the bench, Chris Richard was a second-round pick. Taurean Green a second-round pick. Marreese Speights the next year was a first-round pick. So, I mean, there was some serious talent level across the front line and there was some serious depth across the front line. The one area that we didn't have a lot of depth was in our backcourt, but certainly the small forward spot to the center spot, we were enormous, athletic, pass, score … I mean, that team was unbelievable. So there's just two totally different... Now, I think this team handled the end of the season better than that team did. Now, we all know how that team handled postseason. You know, those guys went 18-0 in two years in the SEC Tournament to the NCAA Tournament. I mean, that's incredible what those guys did. I think when you look at the team, the parallels you can make is a guy like [Al] Horford was this big, strong, kind of physical player. Patric is like that. [Joakim] Noah was outspoken, Patric's got a lot of emotions, Will's kind of a little bit quiet. [Lee] Humphrey shot threes, Frazier shoots threes. Prather was an athletic wing player, Corey Brewer was like that. Scottie Wilbekin … Taurean. But at the same point, you know, this team is a lot different. I think the thing that both teams share that would be similar, in my opinion, is there is really, really good connection inside of our team. I think that's very, very similar. We press more with this team than we did with that team. We do. We had much, much better shot-blocking at the basket in '06, '07 than we do right now. We were able to really do a lot more switching in the half-court defensively with that group than this group. So, I know teams, we want to look at the records and draw these parallels, but I'm always a little bit guarded starting to compare one team to the next because it's different. The personalities are different; the players are different; everything's different. What these guys have done in the regular season has been really, really remarkable and special. I would hate to have that accomplishment all the sudden be compared to something else, because what they did has been, in my opinion, totally unique and special. It kind of stands on its own of what they did in the history of this program.

 

On his feeling toward conference tournaments:

 "I think a lot of coaches have a lot of different opinions on this. The only thing I've said about conference tournaments that I think needs to be looked at: I like playing the conference tournament. I think it gets you ready for postseason. I like the fact that it's a one-and-done event. You've got to play really, really well in order to advance. I think there are some really good things about it. I think it's exciting to me to get into one city, one site, everything's neutral-site. There's something special about that, in my opinion. I think the one thing the NCAA has to look at is any conference that's playing their conference tournament and it goes into Sunday, those teams, in my opinion, should not play in the NCAA tournament until Friday. Because you have to go up there and you have to have a mandatory opening practice on a Wednesday if you're playing Thursday, that's not right for those kind of teams, where you've got a team that all of sudden does a heck of a job, they get all the way to Sunday, they win a championship, maybe they miss Selection Sunday, they've got to travel back, they get back on campus on Sunday, they've got to try to recuperate after playing three straight games and they're on a plane Tuesday night going into a place, Wednesday practice, Thursday playing … that's a lot in my opinion. Now, it doesn't always work out that way; sometimes it does. That's the only thing I think the NCAA ... sometimes they can't do anything about it. But that would be one thing I would really take a hard look at. And I think our league should look at it, too. Are we better off backing up our conference tournament and ending it on Saturday? Just end it on Saturday and give everybody Sunday off and figure out who's in the tournament and who's not and move from there. But it becomes very difficult when you're asking these kids to play Friday, Saturday, Sunday. In some instances, you could be asking teams to play Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Some of these teams, if they keep moving on, could play five straight days and then you come back and play [Thursday]. That's a challenge to look at. But, I do like the fact that we have a little bit of time, we're going into a different venue, where you know what, if you don't play well, you don't win and you go home. And that's kind of the way the rest of the season's going to play out for everybody else."

 

On the fact that UF is projected to open the NCAA Tournament in Orlando (a Thursday-Saturday site), so does he want to play in title game Sunday?

"Of course we do. And I said none of that stuff is obviously ideal. We'll have to go out there and play regardless. That was just something I would say we need to look at. But I think our guys will be excited about playing. Regardless where it is, we'll have time to get prepared and ready to play. So, if we're playing in Orlando, that's great. But our goal right now would be to try to put three games together and play in a championship game on Sunday. I think that's probably the goal of every other team in our league right now, to go about and do that. There's not going to be anything from our perspective where you sit there and say, 'OK, because it's Sunday, let's bail on this tournament early.' We're not going to do that. We're going to try to do the very, very best we can if we're fortunate enough to play three days."

 

On if having a few weeks’ experience as the No. 1 team helps you prepare to take teams' best shots in postseason:

“I think that's happened here for a while. I look at it the other way, I've said this before, I think when you're talking about teams getting emotionally ready to play or getting a team's best shot, that should put us in a situation that we need to throw our best shot. We need to put out what's best from us. I think that's really important. We can't control how the other team is going to come out and play, but we can control how we're going to come out and play. So I'd like to see our team go out there and give the best shot they can possibly give. That's kind of the way I look at that right now. But the thing about it is, I really think this: when the ball goes up in the air, I don't think our guys are running around saying, 'We're No. 1 in the country, we're No. 1 in the country.' They're just playing. All this other stuff that's all this hype stuff that gets hyped up before a game, once the ball goes up and both teams are playing, seeding, ranking, record, all that stuff goes out the window. That's the one thing I love about competition is it's totally unbiased. You have to go out there and play. It doesn't make a difference what you did last possession. It doesn't make a difference what you did last week or the other day. It's a brand new competitive experience, and you've got to be able to go out there and handle that next experience.”

 

On if there’s any disadvantage with the double bye:

 “A lot of the stuff is out of our control. Our goal was to try to win an SEC regular season championship. We did that and we get a double bye, that's just kind of the way it is. So, we're excited with what we've done up to this point in time and excited to be able to play on Friday. All of that other stuff doesn't really make a difference. Even if we play Sunday, if you play Sunday and we've got to come back and play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday – that's the way it is. We're going to go out and whatever is in front of us, we're going to have to handle. We're not going to make excuses for anything. We're not going to do anything like that. We're going to basically focus on what is in front of us, and what is in front of us right now is playing on Friday. That's the only thing that matters. Everything else kind of goes by the wayside. And after this weekend is over with, wherever we get sent to or whoever we're playing, we'll have to get ready to line up and play on that day whenever it is.”

 

On Dorian Finney-Smith:

“I think the biggest thing for him going forward is he has really struggled … I think one of the reasons he was in one of those funks or slumps there for a long time is, and he had this at Virginia Tech, he has a very difficult time getting out of it because I think he’s so self-critical, he gets so down on himself and he beats himself up. And he gets to a place where you know he loses energy, he loses emotion he loses enthusiasm. You know he has to learn how to work his way through and out of those situations better than he does. And what he has done in the past has not been productive and helpful to make that happen. He needs to understand there’s another play coming and he has to understand that. And I think if you looked at him, going back to early in the SEC, if his first one or two possessions don’t go well for him, it ended up becoming a downward spiral for him. He has to be mentally strong enough that when the first couple of possessions don’t go his way that he still stays the course in trying to fight through some of that. That’s been our biggest challenge as a coaching staff with him. He’s done a pretty good job, I think. Coming out of that Vanderbilt game, he’s had some consistent performances. He’s been a little bit more reliable, he’s been a little bit better shooting the basketball. But there’s going to come a game, and it may be Friday, where he gets into the game and next thing you know his first couple shots don’t go down. He owes it to himself and he owes to our team to be able to pull himself out of that. And we need to help him with that but he’s got to also take accountability, too.”

 

On what ‘trends’:

 “The trend of our poor decisions on offense – how many fast-break points does it lead to the opposing team … So, getting our guys to understand: OK guys, coming down the stretch of these last four or five games in the SEC we’ve turned the ball over and taken a bad shot, teams have gotten out of the break this amount of times and this is what they’re shooting. So, we have to understand that we have something to do with our transition defense by what we do in our half-court offense. Rotational block outs, we’re playing against Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle and we’re double-teaming the low post and we get two guys on the ball. Our back-side guards being able to block out. When you guys have not gotten in there here’s how many points we give up when you guys don’t do this, OK? Pick and roll actions, that we run in the half-court, you know we don’t set the correct angle of the screen, guards you don’t use it, this is inevitably what happens. Not that you want to overload these guys with all this information I'm mentioning, but how do you take some of these trends that are really critical and important and point out these trends right now that they've got to adjust to, they've got to get better to and they've got to respond to. And giving them a clear path now starting on Tuesday. I always say we need to get better and we can get better and we can improve. But that's a pretty broad statement. So, how do I get with those guys to make it very, very clear we're working on this because we need to get better at this because when we don't do this, this is what happens to our team. So, this has got to be the focus for us right now. Then I think you've got a time that you can get better. When we are in transition and we don't get a piece of the paint on the dribble of the pass, and we throw the ball around the perimeter and we just jack up a three-point shot, we're shooting 25 percent when we do that. And what's happened is teams are getting out on transition and we can't balance the floor.  So, we've got to make sure in transition we run hard, and we want to get a piece of the paint because when we do get a piece of the paint, here's what we shoot and here's what happens. Breaking it down into those small compartments, so they can see clearly when they're in those situations what they need to do. So, those would be the trends that I would be talking about."

 

On Patric Young’s success off the court:

"He is to me as much- the only other guy that I would say was this way, would be Matt Bonner - he has been the consummate student athlete. I think he represents, in my opinion, what college athletics is all about. His education is very, very important to him; going to class is very important to him; he's very active on campus; he's very active in the community. He's got a great personality. I think he, maybe more so than anybody that's ever been in this program, has taken full advantage of everything on this campus and what it has to offer. From school, to things going on, to Christian groups, to going to church on campus, to mentoring people - all sorts of things - he has taken full advantage; full advantage of the academic support system here, full advantage of the weight room. He's been a real consummate student athlete. I mean, God forbid  something should happen to Patric physically and he was not able to play basketball again, I have no doubt that he would be just as successful at anything he wanted to do because he's that kid that he's taken advantage of the opportunity that's been given to him.”

 

On Texas A&M and Missouri:

“We played both of those two teams here at home, so probably an advantage for us playing at home. I think when you look at Texas A&M, obviously (Alex) Caruso, their point guard, has had a great year. He's a terrific passer. They did have that injury with (Davonte) Fitzgerald, who I thought was playing very well for them, their freshman. But Jamal Jones is a big time scorer for them; they've got size at the basket. They've played really well in a lot of games and have come up short in the closing minutes of some games. They lost at Missouri in a very close game, they lost at Vanderbilt in overtime. We happened to beat them handily here, but they're a good team. And then I think you look at Missouri, certainly their backcourt with (Jordan) Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross. Those three guys are as good of scorers as there is. (Ryan) Rosburg and (Johnathan) Williams up front have given them really, really good minutes. Just defensively, they play some matchup zone, they play some man. I think two teams that are totally different from each other, two teams that play maybe a totally different style of play. So it will be interesting, I think. Texas A&M and Missouri just played maybe the second to last game of the year in Columbia and I think A&M was winning most of the game, I didn’t see it yet, I’ll watch it probably today, and Missouri ended up pulling out the win at the end. That should be a great game, but that’s probably one of those games that’s really, really hard to pick to see who is going to win.”

 

On building a culture of continuity and having these four seniors stay for four years:

“I’m not opposed… I think what happens is you have a team that arrives on your campus and then all of the sudden you sit there and see guys that are here for four years and everybody sits here and says ‘Billy Donovan is just into four year players.’ That’s not true – we had Brad Beal, Mike Miller, Marreese Speights, Nick Calathes, Donnell Harvey, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green – we’ve had an enormous amount of guys here leave early and I’m fine with that. Whenever those guys feel the time is right for them, that’s ultimately going to be their choice. But I do think the one thing that does happen inside of our program, for the guys that don’t leave early or are not afforded the opportunity to leave early, they get better if they are willing to stay the course on the process they have to go through. If you look at a guy like (Casey) Prather, where he was as a freshman as to where he is now, you look at a guy like (Patric) Young, where he was then, where he is now. Scottie Wilbekin; you look at guys, the way they’ve progressed and even the guys who have stayed for four years, what they are doing in the NBA, David Lee, Chandler Parsons, those were four-year guys, Matt Bonner, they are going to play more than 10 years in the NBA. Then you have guys like Mike Miller, (Udonis) Haslem, (Joakim) Noah, (Al) Horford, (Corey) Brewer and those guys are playing a long time. I just want to create an environment here that whenever they are ready to go, they are going to have our blessing. But if they do stay here, rest assured they will get to be as good as they can possibly be once they leave here. That’s the one thing, I think people look at our team and think, they want to keep them there for four years; no, Patric Young has had the opportunity to leave since his freshman year, he’s elected not to, that has been his choice. To me, I’m proud of that part; I’m proud of a guy like Brad Beal being able to leave after one year and do as well as he is in the NBA, and I’m also proud of a guy like (Chandler) Parsons and David Lee staying for four years and doing what they are doing, and the same thing can be said for (Casey) Prather, (Scottie) Wilbekin, (Will) Yeguete and (Patric) Young.”

 

On what makes this team a special group of players:

"I think one of the hardest things to do is to take a group of kids from all different backgrounds, every possible background, different parts of the country, brought up different ways, different parents, different environments, different experiences. And you're out there recruiting these guys and all the sudden you throw them in a room together and in a lot of ways it's the first time they're kind of playing with each other, and we've had some new pieces added to our team, we've had some guys leave. I think what's made them special is their willingness to be unselfish and their willingness to forgive; because when you spend as much time as we do there's going to be issues in your team, guys are going to upset guys, there's going to be things that bother them. To be able to put those things behind and really get to a place where they really care about each other – the thing I'm most proud about this team is there's an unselfishness and a care for the next person, and to me that's one of the most valuable lesson these guys can possibly learn while they're in college and move onto the next step. I've always said this, wherever you go to the next step of your life and whatever you do you're going to be part of team, whether you're married with kids, whether you're part of a church, whether you go to work every single day. You're going to be part of a group bigger than yourself, and the quicker you can learn how I can bring value to the group and the organization, how quickly can I make an impact, and the first thing starts with, ‘How can I serve?’ These guys have done a great job of serving one another and not being totally focused on me, I, what I want, what I need. I think that's been something that's made them special. I think when you can get young people to do that, that really allows you to create something special."

 

On the players potentially earning postseason awards:

"I mentioned this to our guys, and I really, really think this, any individual honor to me is just a reflection on your team. And whatever awards are given out or whatever honors are given out to any of our guys, I think they would be the first one to say, 'Without my teammates this would not have been possible.' So if you have a goal, 'I want to be Player of the Year,' well, you can't accomplish that by yourself. You have to have other guys to make that happen. I think any individual honor, to me, is always a reflection of the group, everybody shares in that together. Even though one individual is being honored, I think everybody shares in that."

 

On whether he feels the same way regarding the possibility of winning coach of the year awards:

"If that was to happen, I don't think those awards would happen if I had a bunch of bad players on my team."

 

On Kasey Hill’s progress this year:

I think he got tougher. I think his experience forced him to grow up a little bit. It’s going to be interesting to see how he responds to that. Does he revert back to kind of how he’s been? The thing I was most pleased about was that he played with a motor, he had energy, he was tough, he mixed it up physically, he tried to defend. For a while there, the only thing he was really giving our team was open-floor speed, he was giving nothing else. And this was a game where I thought he mixed it up. We’ve got a guy like Scottie (Wilbekin), who’s had an incredible year and has meant a lot to our basketball team, go down with I don’t know how many minutes left in the first half, 10, up seven. And I’m sitting there as a coach saying, ‘OK, one of them is probably going to have to give this guy a blow, Kasey Hill, but what happens if we start to lose some control of the game.’ And you know what? The lead went from seven to 21 and he had a lot to do with that. He was really, really impactful on that. But this is hopefully a great lesson for him to be able to learn and take the next step he that he needs to take as a player and play more to that identity that he was on Saturday than maybe he has been in the past.”

 

On having the SEC Tournament in the Georgia Dome:

“Again, I think Atlanta has always been great. There’s been a lot of great venues in the SEC Tournament. The dome is a little bit different than a normal setting. We haven’t had a chance to play in a dome this year. Our guys did last year in Dallas in the NCAA tournament, some of our guys have. So it’s kind of the central location of the Southeast. It’s an easy place to get to. You can get a flight, a lot of the fans can go there and participate in the event. I’ve always liked playing in the Georgia Dome.”

 

On his view of domes in general during the postseason:

“I think when you got the spectacle of the way the NCAA Tournament has turned out to be in the Final Four and what that means to college basketball, I’m not so sure we’re ever going to go back to playing in arenas. I know they did it up in New York there, maybe the Meadowlands. But I think you’re probably going to see going forward most of the time these events being played in dome settings. And I think most coaches will probably tell you, ‘Listen, let’s play in an arena.’ But that’s probably not going to happen. It’s going to probably be played in some kind of dome setting.”

 

On comparing Michael Frazier and Lee Humphrey:

“I think the first trait is they know their shot better than anybody else knows their shot. I always find, when I’m working with a guy shooting the basketball and I ask them why they missed, and they say, ‘I don’t know,’ that’s generally a problem. That’s like a golfer, when you swing the club, and right when you make contact with the ball, a great golfer understands why you missed the shot and where the ball is going to go and what’s happening. (Lee) Humphrey and (Michael) Frazier know their shots better than I know their shots. They know why they missed, why they make, what they need to do, they know their routine. I would say those two guys in particular are unbelievable in the amount of personal investment they make in terms of getting up shots every day. We played Ole Miss at 11 o’clock Central Time. Michael Frazier was in Ole Miss’ gym at 6:45 in the morning shooting. That’s what makes him great. Lee Humphrey would do the same thing. Those guys just have an incredible will to go in there and work and work and work and work and work and work to the point that they’ve got their shot down so well. He and a couple of our guys did it [Saturday] when we played at noon. Frazier is in the O’Dome at 7:45 in the morning shooting, shooting, shooting and shooting and shooting. A lot of it, he and Lee, has to do with the amount of time they spend with it and knowing their shot so well.”

 

On having to push Michael Frazier and Lee Humphrey to keep shooting even when they miss:

“They’re both similar that way. The one thing that really, really helped Lee Humphrey… it’s one thing to keep telling a guy, ‘Keep shooting! Keep shooting! Keep shooting!’ But then you’re saying, ‘If I shoot it and miss it, the other team is going to get the ball and I feel bad.’ Both of those guys experienced that sometimes. The thing that helped Humphrey was that (Joakim) Noah and (Al) Horford told him, ‘Just shoot it, because we’re going to rebound it. We’re gonna get it back.’ That helped Lee and gave him a little more confidence, where, ‘OK, I’m going to shoot it, and these guys are gonna go and get it back.’ Our guys here have done a good job when Frazier has struggled or missed some shots of, our guys have really stayed with him in terms of trying to help him continually shoot the ball.”

 

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