Billy Donovan Biography
Billy Donovan currently serves as the head coach of the Florida Gators basketball team, and is considered by many to be the best coach in the Southeastern Conference, if not the nation as a whole.
And when you take a good look at what he has meant to the University of Florida basketball program, it is easy to see why people make such grand and sweeping statements about this talented head coach.
Born in Rockville Centre, New York, Billy Donovan began his playing career at St. Agnes High School, which at the time was known as one of the premier basketball schools in the area.
He then went on to play for Providence College where he played under legendary head coach Rick Pitino. Donovan was a top flight collegian basketball star, and after a big senior season in which he averaged 20.6 points, Donovan was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the 3rd round of the 1987 NBA Draft. However, his NBA career never really panned out, and after brief stints with the Jazz and with the New York Knocks, Donovan's playing career came to a disappointing conclusion.
Eventually, he was recruited by former head coach Rick Pitino to be an assistant coach with the team he was coaching at the time, the University of Kentucky Wildcats. After a 5 season stint with UK, Donovan advanced to his first head coaching assignment, with Marshall University, a school which until that time did not have a significant history of success in basketball.
Before Donovan, Marshall had struggled to a 9-18 record the season before his arrival. In his first year, Billy D led Marshall to an 18-9 record, and in his two years combined, he went 35-20 and also won one conference championship along the way. Following his success at Marshall that major athletic programs across the country took notice.
In 1996, the University of Florida hired Billy Donovan to take over their basketball program in hopes of elevating their program to the top of the Southeastern Conference after a major tumble in the two seasons that had passed since their 1994 Final Four appearance.
After a rebuilding period that only lasted a short time, Donovan took the team to the NIT in his second year. In his third season, the team took a major step forward, as Donovan guided the Gators to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, only the third appearance in the round of 16 ever for the Gator basketball program.
The following season, Donovan led the Gators even further, to the NCAA Final Four, for the 2nd time in school history. That team eventually fell to Michigan State in the Championship game. However, that season was only a sign of things to come.
Over the course of the next 7 seasons, Donovan consistently would have the University of Florida competing at the highest level nationally, regularly beating SEC rival, the University of Kentucky for the first time in the history of the schools, and consistently making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.
The deepest of these runs came in 2006 and 2007, when the Gators managed to secure back to back national championships in the NCAA Tournament, the first two college basketball national championships in school history.
Those two wins firmly established the University of Florida as one of the elite basketball schools in the nation, mentioned readily in the same breath with the likes of Duke, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Kentucky.
Billy Donovan had a brief (but highly publicized) flirtation with the NBA's Orlando Magic following the 2007 season. The flirtation actually culminated in an agreement in principle with the Magic. However, at the very last minute Donovan decided that his heart was in the college game, and in Gainesville, and he decided to return to the University of Florida in hopes of leading the program to the top once again.
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