Let’s begin by saying that Billy Donovan is undoubtedly the best coach in Florida basketball history and a future Hall of Famer
He’s made Florida basketball relevant by winning two national titles, taking the Gators to three Final Fours and sending countless players to the NBA. Trips to the NCAA Tournament have become a near annual event. Before Donovan, the Gators had only made five NCAA Tournament appearances in school history. Under Donovan, the Gators have reached the NCAA Tournament 12 times in his previous 16 seasons. And trip number 13 will undoubtedly come this March, with UF in the running for its second No. 1 seed in school history.
But the Achilles heel of Donovan’s coaching tenure in 17 seasons showed up again in UF’s 63-60 loss at Missouri — his ability to get the Gators to close out tight basketball games. The loss dropped Donovan to 67-76 overall in gamed decided by five points or less, and 58-75 in gamed decided by five points or less at UF.
Florida has won eight games by 30 points this season, but is 0-2 in games decided by 5 or less. And UF’s last two Elite Eight losses have come in games decided by five points or less due to questionable shot selection by Kenny Boynton and the now departed Erving Walker. There are many theories why Florida struggles to score in clutch situations and most center around UF’s reliance on the 3-point shot. Donovan also appears to give his guards too much freedom late in games without consequences for their actions.
For context, here’s a look at how Donovan’s record in games decided by 5 points or less measures up to contemporary active coaches who have won national titles. Interestingly enough, Donovan is closest in record to his mentor, Louisville coach Rick Pitino:
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse — 190-112 .628
Bill Self, Kansas — 80-60 .571
John Calipari, Kentucky — 81-61 .570
Roy Williams, North Carolina — 91-73 .555
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke — 139-112 .554
Tom Izzo, Michigan State — 76-63 .547
Rick Pitino, Louisville — 94-93 .503
Billy Donovan, Florida — 67-76 .469