Crazy Few Days for Donovan and the Gators

It has been a whirlwind of days for Florida head coach Billy Donovan. After two players were arrested on Sunday morning, he was also faced with the challenge of replacing his entire coaching staff. The hiring of John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts was announced on Tuesday, giving the Gators two former head coaches on the bench.

The familiarity made the Pelphrey hiring an easy choice. Larry Shyatt left weeks ago to take the head-coaching job at Wyoming, while Rob Lanier became the head assistant at Texas and Richard Pitino left for Louisville. The stability that benefited the Florida staff when the season ended was quickly nowhere to be found.

That led to making the Pelphrey hire official without hesitation, and he will be in Gainesville on Tuesday night.

"John Pelphrey is coming back, and he's very excited," Donovan said. "One of the things I felt like I needed was familiarity, because anytime you've got Shyatt's seven years with me, Lanier's four years with me and Richard's two, bringing some familiarity back here that knows me, knows Florida and understands the SEC is important. John will do that."

Roberts brings a different perspective. He hasn't coached in the SEC before, but he held assistant coach jobs at basketball powerhouses like Illinois and Kansas before becoming the head coach at St. Johns for six seasons. He was forced to recruit nationally as an assistant head coach, and Donovan hopes that will bring some experience on the recruiting trail.

Roberts will be in Gainesville on Wednesday to take over, and his reputation around the New York area led Donovan's interest.

"Being from New York and the same age as Norm Roberts, he is a terrific recruiter and a very high character person," Donovan said. "He's very well respected and I think he'll be great for our program and kids."

Both coaches will be on the road when the recruiting period begins Friday.

Donovan won't have to do much coaching of his new hires before that happens. He is comfortable with the knowledge that Pelphrey brings and how familiar he is with the skill sets that Donovan wants to bring to Gainesville.

"I know John, and John knows the league," Donovan said. "He knows what I'm going to be looking for and wanting in recruiting. He knows how the office works and all those things."

LOSING LANIER AND PITINO: The loss of Lanier and Pitino came to national basketball programs, but Donovan said both were also mentioned to potentially become the head coach in waiting at their respective schools.

For Pitino, it was also the chance to go home and work for his dad. Pitino and his wife are expecting their first child next week, so the chance to spend that time in Louisville with their family was too much to pass up.

"The opportunity to go back home and be with his family is something that was very important to him," Donovan said. "He did a great job and I feel sad that his stay was only for two years because I've known him since he was four years old and our relationship has been close."

Lanier's decision to leave was also family focused. His wife loved their time in Austin, when Lanier was an assistant for Rick Barnes from 1999-2001 at Texas. That combined with the possible opportunity to be the head coach in waiting was too much for Lanier to say no to.

"There was the family dynamic with his wife, who played a big part in this decision," Donovan said. "As all wives do in this coaching profession, they make incredible sacrifices for their husbands to coach."

In the end, there were no hard feelings from Donovan.

"The one thing that has been very positive is my relationship with those guys, and more importantly, how those guys feel about the University of Florida," Donovan said. "They enjoyed being a part of something very special. There have been a lot of great moments and incredible accomplishments."

WAITING ON MURPHY AND LARSON: After Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested early Sunday morning, Donovan announced that the players were indefinitely suspended from team activities. He wouldn't say much more about their status during Tuesday's press conference.

"I made a statement that both guys are suspended right now from our team," Donovan said. "I really can't take any questions or talk about it because it's ongoing. All I can say is that I'm disappointed in those guys, and they're disappointed in themselves. We'll have to see how it all goes forward."


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