ESPN concluded its list of top 50 basketball coaches in the country, and surprise or not, Florida coach Billy Donovan is number one on the list.
In naming Donovan the best coach in the country, ESPN.com’s college basketball staff took into account his ability to build a perennial basketball power at a football school, four straight deep runs in the NCAA Tournaments and, in this past season, getting a team with just six scholarship players in the beginning of the season to jell and mold into a Final Four team.
“Disappointing finish or not, 2013-14 was Donovan’s master class,” writes ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennnan. “In October, the Gators were beset by injuries, illnesses and personnel problems. At the start of the season, the Gators had seven scholarship players available to practice.
“(Scottie) Wilbekin, after nearly being dismissed over the summer, was serving out an indefinite suspension. Eli Carter and Will Yeguete were still recovering from injuries. Michael Frazier II was being tested for mononucleosis. Chris Walker, the Gators’ gem recruit, was academically ineligible. The Gators had forward Patric Young, three-year role player Casey Prather, and a whole lot of unknowns.”
Keep in mind, ESPN.com based its criteria on being the best coach right now as opposed to overall resume, which is why Donovan ranked ahead of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (4 national titles, 12 Final Fours), Michigan State coach Tom Izzo (1 national title, 6 Final Fours) and Louisville coach Rick Pitino (Donovan is 0-7 lifetime against Pitino, his mentor). But an argument can be made that Donovan has done more with less than talent than coaches at more traditional blueblood basketball schools. This past season, Donovan took a team to the Final Four that had none of its starters picked in the NBA draft. Florida won a school-record 30 straight games and finished 36-3 in 2013-14 by being unselfish and playing hard on both ends of the floor, which is a testament to Donovan’s ability to coach and motivate.