Timing Was Perfect With Norm Roberts

Norm Roberts knew his wife was sick of watching him waste time. She wanted to see him get back into the coaching ranks after he was fired as the head coach of St. Johns in 2010. When Florida head coach Billy Donovan placed the call to gauge Roberts' interest, it came at a perfect time.

"My wife got to the point with me where I'm staring at those four walls and she said I had to get out of there," Roberts said with a laugh. "I'm just glad to be back in college basketball."

The relationship between Donovan and Roberts wasn't as close as the ones the Florida head coach has with new assistants John Pelphrey or Matt McCall. Instead, Donovan knew more about Roberts based on his reputation. He heard through friends and colleagues that Roberts was a hard worker who did things the right way, so Donovan showed interested and the new assistant jumped at the job opportunity.

"There is a relationship there, and we have known each other," Donovan said. "I have a great deal of respect for his integrity and his character and the amount of years he has been in this business."

Getting back into the groove won't be a problem for Roberts. It will be slightly different going from the head coach of a major program to an assistant coach of a different major program.

Roberts has spent more time doing smaller things to help Donovan, but the transition has been smooth so far.

"The challenge is just getting back to the grind," Roberts said. "As a head coach, you're doing so many things that you get away from the grind stuff. I'm on the phone quite a bit and writing letters, but those things are also fun. Those are the things that excite you."

Recruiting is made easier when Roberts tells prospects who he is now coaching for. His reputation as a person and a coach is usually enough to create interest from a prospect, but the opportunity to play basketball for the Gators is just as enticing.

"It's great because whenever you make that phone call and you're from Florida, people's eyes light up," Roberts said. "That's about being from a place with a good tradition."

The coaches haven't decided on assignments for each assistant to work with a position group, and that's fine with Roberts. He has experience with multiple position groups, so he doesn't care where he is assigned.

"One of the things I'm fortunate in is that I've worked in different situations," Roberts said. "I worked with guards (at Illinois) with Coach (Bill) Self, and then when I got to Kansas, I worked with the big guys. It doesn't bother me to work with either one."

There has been a dedication to defense that Roberts has made a living focusing on. That's especially important for the Gators, who lost ace assistant coach Larry Shyatt, a coach widely regarded for his defensive coaching.

"People at St. Johns would probably say I'm a big defensive guy," Roberts said. "I'm a big believer in that if the other team doesn't score, we've got a good chance to win the game. If you defend and rebound, you've got a chance to be in every ball game."

Roberts doesn't stop his hard work on the recruiting trail or while watching film. He carries it into practice, where he uses his energy to get the best out of his players.

"I am fiery and excited about coaching," Roberts said. "I'm excited in practice. I'm a big believer in treating people the way you want to be treated and respecting each other. I always told my players at St. Johns that I would never disrespect them. That's what I believe in. When you do that, good things will happen."


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