Donovan at the championship game of the 2006 NCAA Tournament
May 30, 1965 |
Rockville Centre, New York
New York Knicks
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
NCAA Men's Basketball Championships
NCAA Regional Championships - Final Four
(2000, 2006, 2007)
SEC Tournament Championships
(2005, 2006, 2007)
SEC Regular Season Championships
(2000, 2001, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014)
SoCon Coach of the Year (1995)
ESPN.com National Coach of the Year (2001)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award (2006)
John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award (2010)
SEC Coach of the Year (2011, 2013)
William John Donovan, Jr. (born May 30, 1965) is an American college basketball coach who has been the head coach of the Florida Gators men's basketball team of the University of Florida since 1996. Donovan is the winningest coach in the history of the Florida basketball program. He led the Florida Gators to a NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship in 2006 and 2007, and has coached the Gators to more NCAA tournament appearances and more Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament championships than every other coach in program history combined.
Donovan was born and raised in Rockville Center on Long Island, New York. As the starting point guard for Rick Pitino's Providence Friars men's basketball team, Donovan led the Friars to the 1987 Final Four. As such, he is one of only four men (Dean Smith, Joe B. Hall and Bobby Knight being the others) to appear in the NCAA Final Four as a player and win the NCAA national championship as a coach.
Before his tenure at Florida, Donovan spent most of the 1987-88 season as a reserve guard for the National Basketball Association's New York Knicks, who at the time were coached by his college coach, Rick Pitino. After leaving the NBA and briefly working as a Wall Street stock broker, Donovan followed Pitino to the University of Kentucky, where he served as an assistant coach for the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball from 1989 to 1993. He accepted his first head coaching position at Marshall University in 1994 and led the Thundering Herd to a 35-20 record over two seasons. .
Over the years, Donovan has been rumored to be a candidate for various NCAA and NBA head coaching positions. On June 1, 2007, he accepted an offer to become the head coach of the NBA's Orlando Magic. However, the day after an introductory press conference, Donovan informed the Magic that he had changed his mind about leaving Florida, and the club agreed to release him from his contract on June 7. He then signed a contract extension with the University of Florida which, at $3.5 million per year, made him the highest paid coach in college basketball at the time.
- 1 Early life and playing career
- 2 Coaching career
- 3 Awards
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Philanthropy
- 6 Head coaching record
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early life and playing career
Donovan was born and raised in Rockville Center on Long Island, New York. He is the son of Bill Donovan, Sr., one of the three leading scorers in the history of the Boston College Eagles men's basketball program. Billy Donovan Jr. attended St. Agnes High School in Rockville Center, where he played basketball under coach Frank Morris. Donovan was described as a "gym rat" who would play basketball as often as possible, even sneaking into his high school gymnasium late at night to practice. With Donovan the star point guard, St. Agnes won the Long Island Catholic High School Championship during his senior year.
Upon graduation, Donovan accepted an athletic scholarship to Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He was not a starter during his first two season with the Providence Friars men's basketball team and scored only two points per game as a freshman and three points as a sophomore. When New York Knicks assistant Rick Pitino was hired as Providence's new head coach in 1985, Donovan informed him that he would like to transfer to Fairfield or Northeastern to get more playing time. However, when Pitino called the coaches of those smaller schools on Donovan's behalf, they declined to offer him a scholarship, so Pitino advised Donovan to stay at Providence and get himself into better physical shape for the upcoming season.
Donovan flourished in Pitino's system, which emphasized the new three-point shot on offense and a fast-paced full-court press defense. "Billy the Kid," as Providence fans soon nicknamed him (after the 19th century outlaw), averaged 15.1 points as a junior and 20.6 as a senior, when he led the 6th-seed Friars to the 1987 Final Four and earned Southeast Regional Most Valuable Player honors. Pitino would later say, "I've never in my life had anyone work as hard to improve as (Donovan)."
New York Knicks
Donovan was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the third round (68th overall) of the 1987 NBA Draft, but was waived before the regular season began. He signed with the Wyoming Wildcatters of the Continental Basketball Association, hoping for another chance to play in the NBA. Rick Pitino had left Providence after the team's Final Four run and returned to New York as the head coach of the New York Knicks. In December 1987, Donovan was reunited with his college coach when the Knicks signed him to a one year contract. He served as a reserve guard for the remainder of the 1987-88 season and averaged 2.4 points and 2.0 assists over 44 games.
The New York Knicks waived Donovan in March 1988. Concluding that did not have a long-term future as a professional basketball player, he accepted a job offer from a Wall Street investment banking firm soon thereafter. Donovan did not enjoy being a stock broker, especially the required cold-call stock sales, and he contacted Pitino after a few months to seek advice about becoming a basketball coach. Donovan had not been a vocal leader as a player, and Pitino was unsure if he had the necessary communication skills required for coaching, so he suggested that Donovan give the financial sector another chance before changing careers. Donovan called Pitino again in April 1989 to reaffirm his interest in coaching. At the time, Pitino was in the process of leaving the Knicks to become the head coach at the University of Kentucky, and he agreed to bring along Donovan as a graduate assistant.
Kentucky assistant (1989–1993)
Pitino was tasked with rebuilding a Kentucky basketball program which had been devastated by sanctions levied by the NCAA due to earlier rules violations. The Wildcats quickly returned to national prominence, and Donovan's coaching career progressed quickly as well. After one season as a graduate assistant, he was promoted to assistant coach in 1990 and to associate head coach in 1992. In that position, Donovan served as Pitino's top assistant during Kentucky's 1993 Final Four run, and he helped to recruit the members of UK's 1996 national championship team.
Marshall University (1993–1996)
Donovan's association with Kentucky's success plus Pitino's recommendation earned him an offer to become the head basketball coach at Marshall University, where the Thundering Herd had struggled to a 9-18 record during the 1993-94 season. Donovan accepted the offer, making him (at 28 years old) the youngest head basketball coach in NCAA Division I.
Using the same fast-paced playing style employed by Pitino, Donovan's first team doubled its win total from the previous year to go 18–9 and win the Southern Conference North Division. A previously scheduled early season match-up pitted Marshall against Kentucky in December 1994. Before the game, Pitino advised his young protege to "try to whip Kentucky's ass, because we'll try to do the same to you." Though he was warmly received by the Rupp Arena crowd, Donovan's team did not feel as welcome, losing 116-75. In Donovan's second season, 1995–96, the team went 17–11, and led the Southern Conference in scoring and three-point field goals. Donovan was also successful on the recruiting trail, convincing nationally-sought prep star Jason Williams to decline scholarship offers from more established programs and remain in state to attend Marshall. Williams would later follow Donovan to Florida.
In two years at Marshall, his Herd teams compiled a 35–20 record and won a conference division championship.
University of Florida (1996–2007)
In March 1996, University of Florida basketball coach Lon Kruger resigned to take the same position at the University of Illinois. The Florida Gators men's basketball team had reached its first Final Four in 1994 under Kruger, but had then slipped back to mediocre levels soon thereafter. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley sought a "young, energetic and enthusiastic" coach to bring more lasting success to the program. After a wide-ranging search, Foley decided that 30 year old Billy Donovan was the best fit for the job and offered him a six-year contract to allow plenty of time to build a strong program.
With few talented players on the roster, Donovan's first two Florida squads had records of 13-17 and 15-16, the only losing seasons of Donovan's coaching career. There were some signs of improvement, however, as the 1997-98 team was invited to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), and Donovan's "relentless" recruiting during this period would set the foundation for future success.
Donovan finally brought lasting success to the Florida basketball program during the 1998-99 season. The Gators went 22-9, earning 20+ wins for only the fifth time in school history and starting an ongoing streak of 16 consecutive 20-win seasons. The Gators continued to play well in the 1999 post-season, as they made their third NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance and became the second squad in school history to appear in the final top-25 polls (No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll and No. 23 in the Associated Press Poll).
1999–2000 saw Donovan lead the Gators to their first regular season SEC Championship and their second NCAA Final Four appearance, defeating North Carolina in the national semi-finals before falling to Michigan State in the NCAA championship game.
The Gators again won the SEC regular season championship during the 2000–01 season, and on February 3, 2003, the team achieved a No. 1 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today poll for the first time in school history, returning there the following season on December 8, 2003. The 2004–05 season was highlighted by Florida defeating Kentucky 70–53 to win the SEC Tournament Championship, marking the first time that the Gators won the conference tournament.
While successful during the regular season, Donovan's Florida squads from 2001 to 2005 consistently underperformed in the NCAA tournament, losing to lower-seeded teams in the first or second round every year despite rosters stocked with many highly recruited players. Still in his 30s, some commentators speculated that Donovan was an excellent recruiter who was unable to make in-game adjustments or develop talented players once they were on the UF campus.
Back to back national championships
In the 2005–06 season, Donovan's sophomore-led Gator squad posted the school's best-ever win streak to start a single season, reeling off seventeen straight wins and reaching No. 2 in the nation in the AP Poll. However, the team failed to reach the top spot as they lost its first SEC game of the season to the Tennessee Volunteers. This loss was followed by a surprising season sweep at the hands of the eventual 2006 National Invitation Tournament champion South Carolina Gamecocks as Florida posted a 10-6 conference record, good for second place in the SEC Eastern Division.
Donovan's young Gator squad would come together in the post-season. Florida reached the SEC Tournament championship and avenged their surprising regular season defeats by beating South Carolina in the finals, earning the school's second conference tournament title. In the 2006 NCAA tournament, the 3rd-seeded Gators finally reached the Sweet 16 and beyond. They defeated Villanova (who had knocked them out the tournament the previous season) to reach the Final Four, and in the championship game, they defeated UCLA 73–57 to win the school's first NCAA basketball title.
During a post-championship celebration in the O'Connell Center, the Gators' entire starting five (Lee Humphrey, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Taurean Green) announced that they would return the following year and attempt to win another championship instead of declaring early for the NBA draft. Accordingly, the Gators were named preseason favorites to repeat by many media pundits. The Gators raced out of the gates, losing just two non-conference ballgames (vs. Kansas and at Florida State). On December 20, 2006, Donovan became the winningest basketball coach in Florida history, earning his 236th win to surpass Norm Sloan's total. The 2007 Gators looked even more mature in terms of their unselfishness, passing and shooting abilities and overall team play. Although the Gators sputtered down the stretch during SEC play, losing three of four games beginning with a loss at Vanderbilt, the team rebounded with its sixth consecutive win over its arch-rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats, to regain momentum amd claim the SEC regular season championship. The Gators then repeated as SEC Tournament champions with dominating performances that culminated in a win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the finals.
Florida earned the number one overall seed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament and defeated Jackson State, Purdue, Butler and Oregon to reach the Final Four. The semi-final was a rematch of the 2006 title game against UCLA, and Donovan's Gators prevailed 76–66. The Gators secured their repeat championship two nights later with an emphatic 84–75 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes, coached by Thad Matta. With the Florida Gators football team having won the BCS national championship game (ironically also over Ohio State) three months prior, the University of Florida became the first school in NCAA history to hold both the football and basketball national championships at the same time.
Donovan's first decade in Gainesville brought unprecedented success to the University of Florida's basketball program. The Gators were invited to the NCAA Tournament in every season between 1999 and 2007 (a streak of nine straight appearances), reached three national championship games, and won two NCAA titles. In contrast, Florida basketball squads had only appeared in five NCAA Tournaments in 81 years of play before Donovan's arrival and had never reached a NCAA championship game. In conference play, Florida had captured only one regular season SEC championship and had never won the conference tournament before Donovan's arrival. From 1996 until 2007, the Gators won three SEC regular season titles and three SEC tournament titles.
Orlando Magic (June 2007)
During Florida's second title run it was rumored that Billy was interested in coaching the University of Kentucky. After winning the National Championship, Donovan declined and said he wanted to work out an extension to stay at Florida. However, in late May, Donovan was offered the Orlando Magic head coaching job. On May 31, 2007, Donovan accepted the head coaching position for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in a deal reported to be worth $27.5 million over five years, and announced his acceptance of the head coaching job on June 1, 2007. Donovan replaced Brian Hill, who was fired after two consecutive losing seasons. Hill's ouster followed the Magic's first playoff appearance in four years, which ended in the first round against Detroit. Donovan signed the contract June 1, officially making him Magic head coach. Florida then contacted Anthony Grant (who at the time was the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University and a former assistant coach under Donovan, and who, coincidentally, would end up joining the SEC anyway in 2009 as Alabama's head coach) to offer him the job.
But, on the morning of June 2, 2007, Donovan informed the Magic and the Gators that he was having second thoughts about leaving the University of Florida. On June 6, the Magic came to an agreement with Donovan to release him from his contract, leaving him free to rejoin the Gators basketball team. As a stipulation of his release, he reportedly agreed not to coach in the NBA for the following five seasons.
University of Florida (2007–present)
Despite the loss of all five starters from the previous year, the Gators surprised many pundits with Donovan's tenth straight twenty-win season. However, after an 18–3 start, the team struggled during the final third of the season, winning just three of its last eleven games and snapping the Gators' nine-year streak of NCAA Tournament invitations. The young Gator team rebounded to reach the semifinals of the 2008 National Invitation Tournament (NIT), where they were defeated by UMass Minutemen.
The 2008–09 Gators started out the season ranked No. 19 and 5–0 before falling to Syracuse. A loss two weeks later to the Florida State Seminoles knocked the Gators out of the top twenty-five ranked teams. Though the team won twenty-two regular season games, it once again was not enough to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. However, the Gators were given a number one seed in the 2009 NIT, where they lost to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the quarterfinals.
The Gators returned to the NCAA tournament during the 2009–2010 season, but lost in the first round to the BYU Cougars in double overtime. During the season, Florida defeated Florida State, ending a three-game losing streak to the Seminoles. They also defeated Michigan State, a preseason favorite to win the NCAA tournament and an eventual Final Four team, en route to winning the 2009 Legends Classic tournament.
With three returning senior starters, the 2010–11 Gators posted an improved record. They won the SEC regular season title, and were the runners-up in the 2011 SEC Tournament. In the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the Gators defeated the Jimmer Fredette-led BYU Cougars, before losing in overtime to the Butler Bulldogs in the Elite Eight.
On March 8, 2011, Donovan was named the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year. Despite appearing in three national title games and winning two national titles, it was Donovan's first time winning the award. Gators forward Chandler Parsons also became the first Gator to ever win SEC Player of the Year honors.
The 2011–12 Gators were again invited to the NCAA Tournament, this time as a 7 seed. They defeated the tenth-seeded Virginia Cavaliers and fifteenth-seeded Norfolk State (who had beaten second-seeded Missouri) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, then defeated Marquette 68-58 to return to the Elite Eight for the second straight year. In the Elite Eight, Donovan and the Gators faced off against Louisville and Donovan's former coach, Rick Pitino. The Gators fell in a very close game, 72-68.
Donovan recorded his 400th career victory at the University of Florida on January 19, 2013 with an 83–52 win over the Missouri Tigers. The Gators won the 2013 SEC regular season championship (Donovan's fifth regular season conference championship), finished as runner-up in the 2013 SEC Tournament (losing to Ole Miss in the championship game), and advanced to a third consecutive Elite Eight (defeating Northwestern State in the second round, Minnesota in the third round, and Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet Sixteen, before losing to Michigan in the regional final).
Several of Donovan's assistants have become college head coaches in recent years. One of Donovan's former assistants currently serves as a head coach with Donovan in the Southeastern Conference. The following head coaches all spent time under Donovan at Florida:
- Anthony Grant, currently at University of Alabama
- Donnie Jones, currently at University of Central Florida
- Shaka Smart, currently at Virginia Commonwealth University
- Lewis Preston, currently at Kennesaw State University
- Richard Pitino, currently at Minnesota
- Larry Shyatt, currently at University of Wyoming
Former players in the NBA
Several of Donovan's former Gators players have been selected in the NBA Draft or signed as members of National Basketball Association (NBA) teams, including seven first-round NBA draft picks. These former Gators players include:
- Bradley Beal (1st round, 3rd pick, 2012 NBA Draft)
- Matt Bonner (2nd round, 45th pick, 2003 NBA Draft)
- Corey Brewer (1st round, 7th pick, 2007 NBA Draft)
- Nick Calathes (2nd round, 45th pick, 2009 NBA Draft)
- Donnell Harvey (1st round, 22nd pick, 2000 NBA Draft)
- Udonis Haslem (2003 undrafted free agent)
- Al Horford (1st round, 3rd pick, 2007 NBA Draft)
- David Lee (1st round, 30th pick, 2005 NBA Draft)
- Vernon Macklin (2nd round, 52nd pick, 2011 NBA Draft)
- Mike Miller (1st round, 5th pick, 2000 NBA Draft)
- Joakim Noah (1st round, 9th pick, 2007 NBA Draft)
- Chandler Parsons (2nd round, 38th pick, 2011 NBA Draft)
- Marreese Speights (1st round, 18th pick, 2008 NBA Draft)
- Jason Williams (1st round, 7th pick, 1998 NBA Draft)
The United States Sports Academy presented Donovan with the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award in 2006. Donovan was the recipient of the John R. Wooden Award's "Legends of Coaching Award" in 2010. Donovan was recognized by his peers as the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year.
Donovan married his wife, the former Christine D'Auria, in 1990. The Donovans have four children: Hasbrouck, Bryan, Connor, and William III, who transferred to Florida from Catholic University and walked on to his father's team as a reserve guard. A fifth child, Jacqueline, was delivered stillborn in 2000, prompting Donovan to become involved in several children's charities and to help raise funds for a children's hospital in Gainesville. Similar tragedies struck the families of Donovan's mentor Rick Pitino, former assistant coach Anthony Grant, and current assistant John Pelphrey, forging a closer bond between them.
Donovan's parents bought a home in Gainesville in 1996, and Bill Donovan, Sr. has been a fixture at most Gator games and practices ever since.
In October 2008, coach Billy Donovan and then-head Florida Gators football coach Urban Meyer were named co-chairmen of an effort to raise $50 million to support the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. The Florida Opportunity Scholars Program was created by University of Florida President Bernie Machen in 2006, and is intended to increase the opportunities for academically prepared first-generation students who have experience significantly different needs and financial challenges.
Billy Donovan was instrumental in fund-raising and pushing for the development of a Catholic high school in Gainesville, which did not have a Catholic secondary school when Donovan arrived at the University of Florida in 1996. St. Francis High School opened in 2004 and expanded in 2008 with much help from Donovan, whose kids attended the school.
Head coaching record
|Marshall Thundering Herd (Southern Conference) (1994–1996)|
|Marshall:||35–20 (.636)||18–10 (.643)|
|Florida Gators (Southeastern Conference) (1996–present)|
|1997–98||Florida||14–15||6–10||6th (East)||NIT First Round|
|1998–99||Florida||22–9||10–6||3rd (East)||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|1999–00||Florida||29–8||12–4||T–1st (East)||NCAA Runner-up|
|2000–01||Florida||24–7||12–4||T–1st (East)||NCAA Second Round|
|2001–02||Florida||22–9||10–6||T–1st (East)||NCAA First Round|
|2002–03||Florida||25–8||12–4||2nd (East)||NCAA Second Round|
|2003–04||Florida||20–11||9–7||2nd (East)||NCAA First Round|
|2004–05||Florida||24–8||12–4||2nd (East)||NCAA Second Round|
|2005–06||Florida||33–6||10–6||2nd (East)||NCAA Champions|
|2006–07||Florida||35–5||13–3||1st (East)||NCAA Champions|
|2007–08||Florida||24–12||8–8||4th (East)||NIT Semifinals|
|2008–09||Florida||25–11||9–7||3rd (East)||NIT Quarterfinals|
|2009–10||Florida||21–13||9–7||4th (East)||NCAA First Round|
|2010–11||Florida||29–8||13–3||1st (East)||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2011–12||Florida||26–11||10–6||T–2nd||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2012–13||Florida||29–8||14–4||1st||NCAA Elite Eight|
|Florida:||443–168 (.725)||191–100 (.656)|
National champion Conference regular season champion Conference tournament champion
- Florida Gators
- History of the University of Florida
- List of NCAA Men's Division I Final Four appearances by coach
- List of Providence College people
- Marshall Thundering Herd
- Providence Friars
- University Athletic Association
- 2007 March « TicketCity Blog - Find Great Ticket Deals!
- Winning pays off (2007-06-07). "Winning pays off". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- Hermoso, Rafael, "COLLEGE BASKETBALL: SOUTH; Easy Part For Florida Is Playing The Game," The New York Times, March 18, 2001. Accessed November 25, 2007.
- Ocala Star-Banner - Google News Archive Search
- Gator Men's Basketball Coaches & Support Staff - GatorZone.com
- Rick Pitino tells classic Billy Donovan story | members.jacksonville.com
- Knicks Sign Donovan - New York Times
- Florida's Billy Donovan retains fire, gains perspective
- Twenty-five years after Providence Final Four run, the Donovan-Pitino bond is stronger than ever | The Dagger: College Basketball Blog - Yahoo Sports
- SPORTS PEOPLE: BASKETBALL; Donovan Lands Coaching Job at Marshall - New York Times
- Marshall at Kentucky (December 27, 1994)
- Uf To Name Marshall's Donovan Basketball Coach - Sun Sentinel
- Give Pitino an assist for Donovan hire | Jacksonville.com
- Fearless And Confident - Daily Press
- The Gators' fight is rooted in a teammate fight - columnist - ESPN
- Donovan Sending Out A Message - Sun Sentinel
- Donovan becomes the winningest head coach in Florida history
- Steve Wieberg (2007-03-31). "2007 Final Four". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- Brian Schmitz (2007-06-01). "Orlando Magic hire Billy Donovan as coach". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- ESPN.com news services (2007-06-04). "Source: Donovan has second thoughts about Magic job". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2007-06-04.
- Reports: Donovan Almost Out, Van Gundy Almost In for Magic, NBA.com. Retrieved on June 5, 2007.
- Associated Press (2007-06-06). "Magic release Donovan from contract". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-06-06.[dead link]
- Rivals.com Basketball Recruiting Staff (2007-10-24). "Gators have top recruiting class". Rivals.com. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- Orlandosentinel.com Florida Gators
- 2011 SEC Men’s Hoops Awards Announced > SEC > NEWS
- Donovan Presented With United States Sports Academy Coaching Award - GatorZone.com
- "Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award". ASAMA - The American Sport Art Museum and Archives. Retrieved 06 Oct 2012.
- Married To The Gators - Orlando Sentinel
- http://premierespeakers.com/billy_donovan Billy Donovan Head Men's Basketball Coach, University of Florida
- Erik Brady (2006-10-27). "Florida's Noah molding his own destiny in Gators' quest for back-to-back titles". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Janine Young Sikes (2004-08-01). "How do public figures vote?". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2008-03-19.[dead link]
- Meyer & Donovan to raise funding
- Gainesville Sun article about the scholarship
- About the Scholarship Program
- UF Coaches lead the charge
- St. Francis grows while many Catholic schools struggle | Gainesville.com
- Gainesville Sun - Google News Archive Search
- Billy Donovan's son transferring to Florida - The Independent Florida Alligator: Sports
- Billy Donovan's website at the University of Florida athletics site
- Billy Donovan at BasketballReference.com
- Video interview with Donovan at a May 2008 pediatric cancer research benefit hosted by Dick Vitale