Donovan cherishes relationship with Muschamp

After Will Muschamp was told he wouldn’t be returning next season, Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan reached out to him to offer support.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley talked on Monday about what makes the Florida athletic program special, pointing to the relationships between coaches of different sports. It’s easy to see how much respect other Florida coaches have for the fired football coach.

Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan was in attendance at Muschamp’s press conference Monday for support. Their families have grown close in recent years.

Billy Donovan said he sent Will Muschamp a text message earlier in the week, offering time for the two to get together and talk if Muschamp wanted to. Donovan made it clear on Thursday that he doesn’t know the ins and outs of what has happened to the football team this season, but the type of person Muschamp was away from the field always made him highly regarded in the athletic department.

“From a coaching standpoint, standing back and watching him handle what he’s handled, I think the guy’s been an incredible man,” Donovan said. “He’s handled himself in an incredibly professional way in a very, very difficult circumstance. To me that was really impressive. I have a high level of respect for him.

“What we do is not who we are, and to me as a man, Will has been able to separate that. That’s really impressive. Maybe we didn’t win enough games, that’s fine. But he never let it affect who he was and what he stood for. That was very inspiring. I think who he was really showed up under the most adverse pressure situation.”

Being on the hot seat wasn’t a secret to Muschamp going into this season. He openly brought it up at SEC Media Days before the season started, and once the losses started to pile up, he handled himself well and knew that he would be judged by wins and losses.

During a blowout loss to Missouri on homecoming, the “Fire Muschamp” chants started to echo through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. He didn’t react to it or show frustration like other coaches might have. When he was fired on Sunday, Muschamp acknowledged the mistakes and owned up to the fact that the team simply didn’t win enough games.

“Most of us under extreme pressure don’t like who we become sometimes,” Donovan said. “You know what, I would say I fall into that category where there’s times that I say, ‘Geez, I wish I handled that stuff better,’ with my team or my wife or whatever and recognize those things. That guy all the way through to me was a first-class guy in terms of staying true to who he is. He’ll be missed here by me because I really like him as a person.”

The 2014 football season has been full of “what ifs,” and Donovan was quick to point them out on Thursday. What if Tevin Westbrook doesn’t drop the touchdown pass against LSU? What if Frankie Velez makes the field goal against South Carolina instead of having it block?

Donovan has seen plenty “what ifs” throughout his career, too. What if Angel Rodriguez missed the three-pointer for Miami with 16 seconds left on Monday? What if Chandler Parsons missed a 75-foot shoot at North Carolina State in 2010? What if Mike Miller doesn’t hit the runner against Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament?

“That’s the part where I think, as a coach, you have to be able to sit there and say some of this stuff is out of (your) control,” Donovan said. “Maybe there’s some things he looks and says, ‘I wish I would have done this differently or that differently or this differently.’ But really it’s everybody, it’s total team part of it there. A couple of plays here, a couple of plays there and the season for them maybe looks a little different.”

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