Donovan calls decision ‘incredibly difficult’

Florida officially announced on Thursday afternoon that head coach Billy Donovan has resigned to take the same position with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Donovan leaves Gainesville after 19 years as the program’s coach. His time in the community and comfort at Florida made this a difficult decision for the two-time national champion coach.

“I want to thank Jeremy Foley, the players, coaches and staff I’ve had the chance to work with during my time at Florida,” Billy Donovan said in a statement. “The administrative support and stability has been unbelievable here, and it is an incredibly difficult decision to leave that. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation.”

Donovan took the Gators to four Final Fours, three national title games and won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. He leaves Florida with a 467-185 record and .715 winning percentage, the best in program history. When Donovan came to Gainesville, the Gators were searching for someone to stabilize a program with just one Southeastern Conference title. He won six during his 19 seasons.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who hired Donovan back in 1996, appreciated what Donovan brought to Florida on and off the court.

“While we are certainly extremely sad to see Billy go, the primary feeling I have is one of gratitude for what he has done here at Florida,” Foley said. “Billy and Florida basketball have been synonymous for a long time now, and our program would not have reached the heights it has without him. The legacy he leaves here is one of personal and professional excellence, and we wish him, Christine and the Donovan family continued success and happiness as they make this move. There is no better person than Billy Donovan. He will truly be missed.”

The focus now moves to the future. After 19 years with the same men’s basketball coach, Foley now has to make a decision about the direction of the program. There are many candidates that could get a look in recent weeks, but Foley isn’t ready to nail down a timetable on when the hire would be made.

“Like we have with other recent searches, we will have an internal working group that will identify candidates to be our next head coach,” Foley said. “I don’t intend to put a timeline on our hire, but we will work hard to have the right person in place over the coming weeks.”

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