Continuity Will be Key for the Gators

Billy Donovan knows that he is in a situation most coaches don't go through. Replacing an entire coaching staff would be tough for anyone, but bringing in John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts secures that he will have two quality assistants on the staff. The difficult part comes in creating instant continuity between the new staff.

"The one thing is that I'm still here… even though I'm the only one standing right now," Donovan said with a laugh at the press conference that announced the Pelphrey and Roberts hires. "The system, the style, the players, the returning players, that's all the most important thing. John knows me well enough and Norm will get to know me."

Change isn't always a bad thing. Donovan opened the press conference by talking about how happy he was with what Larry Shyatt, Rob Lanier and Richard Pitino brought to the program during their time. However, any assistant leaving a program can be a positive.

New hires bring freshness to the program that Donovan learned about years ago when he first got into coaching.

"I worked for Coach (Rick) Pitino and he always felt like after three years, people needed to move on," Donovan said. "I'm not so sure I agree with that, but it was his thing to bring in fresh ideas, new people and exciting energy."

The immediate responsibility for Donovan comes in communicating what he wants out of the assistants. Pelphrey made it to Gainesville late Tuesday night and Roberts was expected in on Wednesday, giving the coaches a few weeks with the players until they get a short summer break.

It's important for the players to get a feel for both coaches' personalities before they get back to work immediately when the summer break is over.

"I've seen John build relationships with players here, and I know Norm is very good at that," Donovan said. "He'll be a tremendous influence on multiple guys on this team."

One possibility to create instant chemistry comes by starting practice earlier in the fall. The Gators can do that by taking a trip to Canada to play some games in August, which would allow them to start practicing before that.

A new coaching staff also raises questions about recruiting, but Donovan isn't concerned. He said multiple times that Pelphrey has worked under him for enough years to know what type of player the program is looking for. Donovan will communicate that to Roberts and trust his national recruiting connections to get work done. In his time as an assistant at Kansas and Illinois, plus the head coach at St. Johns, Roberts has plenty of experience recruiting nationally.

With the ties of Pelphrey and Roberts to strong recruiting areas and their recent times as a head coach, the immediate thought would be that the two could try to get a head coach job soon and leave Florida. Donovan doesn't think that's the case.

He pointed to uncertainty when Shyatt was hired at Florida after he was fired as the head coach at Clemson, and many people expected him to leave shortly after.

"When you hire good people, there will always be opportunities," Donovan said. "There is a difference when guys are out seeking and hunting jobs. I've been very unfortunate that the guys I've had here have not done that. You never know where life will take you. If you try to hire someone who you think will be here for five or seven years and it's not the right fit or guy, then it's hard."

However, he did make it clear to both coaches that if they were just coming to Florida with the intention of leaving for a new job soon, he didn't want to hire them.

"I want someone who is totally entrenched in the University of Florida and wants to help build Florida," Donovan said. "If you're successful and we have a lot of success, then that's what opens doors of opportunity."

ONE MORE ASSISTANT TO HIRE: Pelphrey and Roberts hired leaves one position on the staff opened, but Donovan said he wouldn't rush to make the hire. He needed the first two hires to be made quickly to restore order to the program and have coaches on the road when the recruiting period starts on Friday, but he said there are plenty of people he is considering for the final spot.

"I'm looking at a lot of people," Donovan said. "A lot of this has happened quickly, and I wanted to just get two quick people in place right away that I thought could make a good impact. There are a lot of good coaches out there. The one thing that has been somewhat overwhelming is the amount of interest there has been, especially when Larry left."

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