Changeover Should Be Good For Gators

When all the assistant coaches on a basketball team are new, it's usually because the team was bad. In that situation odds are that either the coach got fired or the coach kept his job by firing everyone else.

Then you have the Florida Gators who have remade the coaching staff after a 29-8 season that included the school's fifth SEC Championship and its fifth trip to the Elite Eight.

First, Larry Shyatt left to become the head coach at Wyoming and then Rob Lanier (Texas) and Richard Pitino (Louisville) left for positions that in effect make them the heir apparent. Florida was without a coaching staff… but not for long.

The return of John Pelphrey was a no-brainer. The only reason it didn't happen immediately after Shyatt's departure is that Billy Donovan intended to promote Lanier to the post of being second in command. Pelphrey gives Florida a guy who has been a relatively successful head coach for nine years, knows Billy and the system, and has tutored big men.

The addition of Norm Roberts is basically re-hiring Shyatt. Roberts built a reputation for being among the top assistants in the country under Bill Self at Illinois and Kansas before taking over a mess at St. Johns. He had to rebuild the school's reputation and talent base simultaneously and that takes time.

Last year, the Johnnies made it to the NIT and with everyone back expectations were high for a return to the NCAA. That happened, but Roberts wasn't around to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Roberts was canned and Steve Lavin, who inherited nine seniors, was dubbed a miracle worker. It's ironic that Roberts is on the same staff with Pelphrey, because Pel rebuilt the program at Arkansas, has a team poised to be much improved in 2011-12 and won't be a part of it.


Donovan has one spot left on his coaching staff and indications are pretty strong that it will go to either former Florida Director of Basketball Operations Matt McCall who is an assistant at FAU or former Gator player Brett Nelson who coached under Donnie Jones and Pelphrey and played for Donovan. That doesn't guarantee it'll happen that way, but it could. Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard is a name that has been bandied about, but it's hard to imagine the Illinois grad leaving his alma mater for the last spot on the Florida staff.

It's not likely the coaching changes will have much of an impact on the two Gator signees for next season. Schools rarely consider offering releases when the assistants move on and there's really no reason to do so here. Brad Beal is very close with Donovan and should be fine. Walter Pitchford is a bit of a mystery since he did back away from DePaul after they had a coaching change last year, but again it was a head coaching change.


Next up for Donovan is dealing with Cody Larson and Erik Murphy after the two were arrested the other night. Larson has a bigger concern since his arrest could lead to the revocation of his probation for a charge in South Dakota for which he received a two month suspended sentence. Murphy, who you would assume would be a starter next season didn't need this sort of issue either.

It will be interesting to see if the additions of Pelphrey and Roberts lead to Florida adding a body to the roster for next season. If it does, it needs to be a BIG body.

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