Donovan Looking for the ‘Next level'

When Billy Donovan introduced his new assistant coaches to the media on Tuesday his talk was all about the family atmosphere he wants to have and maybe even return to his program. Words like cohesion and relationships were prominent in his talk to the media. Donovan looked proud to introduce his new and somewhat old family on Tuesday and believes it is a group that will make his program better.

Florida basketball head coach Billy Donovan was somewhat caught off guard last month when all of a sudden a coaching staff that had just coached its way to the Elite Eight was running every which direction and finding promotions in other basketball programs.

Larry Shyatt left Donovan after a long tenure and two national titles on the staff to become the head coach at Wyoming. Rob Lanier took a promotion at Texas as the team's top assistant. Rich Pitino took a step up the ladder as well and went back to work with his father at Louisville in an increased role.

None were really expected, but that doesn't matter, Donovan had to make the best of it. "It has been a unique situation for me having three assistant coaches leave in one year," Donovan told the media gathered on Tuesday. "I have had assistant coaches leave throughout the course of my time here at Florida, but to have three leave at one time is unique and very different."

Donovan is bringing in what seems to be a stellar coaching staff in former Arkansas and South Alabama head coach John Pelphrey, former St. Johns head coach Norm Roberts, and former FAU assistant coach Matt McCall. Donovan knows he had a lot of good coaching to replace with the three that left.

"Staff wise, I am very excited," Donovan said. "I feel like we were able to put together a terrific staff. I loved Larry Shyatt, I loved Rob Lanier, and I loved Rich Pitino… they were great. I think as a coach you always try to get better when you have a chance to hire. Time will tell, but I am really excited about these three guys and think they will do a great job."

With so many loses on staff, Donovan felt it necessary to bring in people that were both familiar with the program and that he has worked with before. He got that in Pelphrey of whom he coached in college for three years and has worked with nine years as a coach. McCall has his roots at Florida as a team manager and worked his way up to the operations part of the program before moving on to take an assistant job at FAU.

"One of the things I felt like was important to me was the familiarity," Donovan said. "John and I worked together for nine years. Matt McCall and I were together for seven years. Although Norm and I have not worked together, we graduated high school in New York at the same time. I am very excited about this staff."

Right now it is an uphill battle as far as relationships for the new guys. They have to develop chemistry with each other, their players, the families of the team, recruits, recruits families, and high school coaches. All of that will take some time to develop. To top it off, McCall is the only one that doesn't have a an immediate family he will be missing.

"It would be a lot easier for me to get all these guys here and their families here," Donovan said. "Matt being a single guy has been the easiest, but John's family is still in Arkansas, Norm's family is still in New York. There will be a transition period, but the one thing that I respect and admire is that both John and Norm have taken the time to come here without their family here.

"The biggest adjustment for these guys is when they get here is developing relationships with people, with coaches, with players, with families that the previous recruiting staff had. We have about two and a half months to develop relationships with people.

"This is an important time for us. It isn't just with guys we are recruiting, but relationships with guys in the program, with their families and their parents. They have been trying to establish those relationships and pick those things up. "If someone has a relationship with someone for nine months to a year and a half, it will take some time to establish (a new relationship)."

Donovan hinted that he would love to return to the roots that saw his team continually sit near the top of the polls for several years. That takes some doing and he hopes he found the three guys to get the magic back. He pointed out that his successful teams have been a reflection of the coaching staff and their ability to work together and support each other.

"One of the things you try to do is create a level of chemistry inside the staff," he said. "When John, Anthony Grant, and Donnie Jones were here, it was not by mistake that we had very good teams. I think our team reflected what a team is all about. I think going forward right now with Matt, Norm, and John, we have to reflect that same sort of thing. I think as a coaching staff you are trying to make your players better, but as a staff you need to display incredible team work."

Donovan believes the teamwork within the staff will be a byproduct of the individuals within the staff and just what they are able to get out of the folks they are in contact with. The best coaches according to Donovan are those that make others achieve their best.

"The value of an individual to me within the staff is how well that person brings out the best in other people," Donovan said. "I think what you want is to have other people react off of each other. There are certain things that Norm Roberts brings to our staff that is somewhat foreign. I think for Norm it would be paramount for the people inside our program for him to share the things he has experienced in his time.

"John, going to South Alabama and Arkansas, has a wealth of knowledge and things that he has experienced. I think he can make people inside of our (program) better and I think the same thing of Matt.

"When I talk about our coaching staff it is no different than me talking about our team. I think that we have to display a level of cohesion, being together, chemistry, and bond. The biggest thing to me is that when you have a person on your staff that makes every person on your staff better, you have a very valuable person. I think I have a group of guys that can make our program better, each other better, everything to do that is there.

"When you are in front of your team and talking about chemistry, cohesiveness, guys getting along, sacrifice, unselfishness, and making each other better… then you look at your staff and you say we don't embody those things… I think it is important that we buy into those things and I think we have a group that understands how important those things are.

"I think that John, Norm, and Matt all bring things to the table that will all complement each other in a way that will help us get to a different level."

As much as he likes having a Pelphrey back and a McCall back, Donovan takes great pride in his coaching tree and the things they are accomplishing. He likes the reflection on his program and along with the pride it helps promote his program.

"I do like that, because when Shaka Smart goes to the Final Four and Anthony Grant has done what he has done at Alabama, and Donnie Jones at Central Florida and Marshall, and John at South Alabama and Arkansas… despite developing guys and helping them to get to the next level, there is also a part of me that feels very responsible to help guys and develop guys to get to the next step in their career," Donovan said. "Not to say that I have it all figured out and have all the answers. I just hope that in the time these guys spend at Florida, they can say they were part of the best staff I have ever been a part of in my entire life and (they) are a better coach, better person, and a better everything for being here. I think that's the goal.

"I think the more you have an opportunity for assistant coaches to go out and be successful it only helps the guys that are here."

No Summer Tour for Gators

Donovan has nixed the overseas tour for the team citing too many conflicts that may hamper it being a beneficial experience for his team.

"I wanted to do that and it probably isn't going to pan out for us," he said of the trip that would allow his team more practice time and playing time than if they were to skip it. "Part of the reason it won't pan out is because Patric Young and Brad Beal have been invited to play for USA Basketball and it is an opportunity for them in June and July to play for that team and try out for that team. (Freshman forward) Walter Pitchford coming in and having to go through the Clearinghouse will probably take a little bit more time and we have to talk about Cody and Erik's situation.

"As much as I would love to make that happen and do that, with the July recruiting period and try and leave on August 6th. Can we realistically get our entire coaching staff on the floor and manage recruiting at a very critical time and be able to do both. That was the thing that became very difficult… is if we have to start practice on July 25th, am I going to be the only coach back here because of the guys have to be on the road recruiting? It just seemed like it was just too much. As much as I wanted to make it happen, it is probably not going to happen for our team. We will get an opportunity down the road to make that trip happen.

"I think the biggest thing for John, Norm, and Matt, they have worked the phones very hard. We have six guys on campus right now in Summer A and they have been able to see those guys and spend time with those guys. I think an overseas trip would be great, but the timing of it and where it takes place is probably not the best thing for us."

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