Wild Ride for Lanier

It had been just a week when newly hired assistant Rob Lanier learned that the Orlando Magic had fired coach Brian Hill. Ironically, he was driving to his old office at the University of Virginia when he heard the news on the radio. Then and there, he began to think his new job might be in jeopardy.

"As soon as I heard it, I called my wife and explained to her the potential that they might find [Billy Donovan] attractive," Lanier said. "I didn't know anything. I was just putting two and two together. The rumors got out there real fast and I started reading all the papers down here to see what they were saying."

Donovan and the Gators announced Lanier on May 23. The former Virginia assistant was replacing Donnie Jones who left to become head coach at Marshall. By the time he interviewed for the position with Donovan, rumors about Kentucky and the Memphis Grizzles had already been surfacing.

"It was something that I brought up [during the hiring process]," he said. "It was something that I was totally satisfied with the response I got from him."

Lanier knew what he was getting into at Florida. The program was as high as a program could get in the modern era of college basketball. The Gators were coming off back-to-back titles, and its head coach was the hottest name in the ring for open coaching jobs around the country.

"My wife and I had prepared ourselves that this could happen," Lanier said. "We didn't allow ourselves to be surprised, and the whole uncertainty of it, we had a little bit of lead-time to prepare ourselves for it. It was something we were already talking about. At the time, I made no effort to press him on it, and at the time he made the decision, my stance was to back off as much as possible."

Although Lanier was new to the program, meaning he would be the first to be on the outside looking in after the dust settled, it was a risk he was willing to take. He had given up his job at Virginia to learn from who he believes is the best coach in college basketball. The risk was worth the reward, yet he still knew his future was in doubt.

"I felt at the time, there were more people that had more vested in the program than me," he said. "When the time was right, Billy and I would talk about it."

It was situation he was used to, however. Lanier had spent the last nine years at five different addresses, but he had a good situation at Virginia. It is an up-and-coming program, and he was working with his good friend, Cavalier head coach Dave Leito. It was tough for him to leave Virginia, but he learned through the hiring process that his heart was in Florida just like Donovan learned his heart was in Gainesville.

"I know where Billy is coming from," Lanier said. "Not to the degree because he's been here for 11 years and built this program from the ground up, but I was at Virginia with one of my best friends in the world, trying to establish a program ourselves. We made a tough decision to leave a great place with great people."

After just a week on the job, he had learned that his new boss was leaving for Orlando and his career was in flux.

"I was intent on being patient," Lanier said. "I did feel out Dave Leito and see if that was still a possibility, but Dave was a great friend. What he allowed me to do was to talk to him as a close friend without the pressure of the Virginia situation. I wasn't going to put that on him."

Leito assured that he had a home in Virginia, but Lanier said Florida was where his new home was and he wasn't looking back.

"What Billy did for me was to keep me in the loop as best as he could given the circumstances," he said. "He made me feel comfortable and things worked out."

Now like Donovan, Lanier can get back to what he loves to do most – coaching. And he's ready to learn from someone he admires.

"The biggest thing in coming here was the opportunity for personal growth and professional growth," he said. "Billy and I go back a little bit because of a close mutual friend. We know a little bit about each other, but I'm sure I know more about him than he knows about me."

He can also begin the process of putting what has easily become the wildest situation of his coaching career behind him.

"I'm trying to figure out what would be second," he said. "It's been wild. At the end of the day, the truth is I am happy for Billy. This is truly where he wants to be. One of the reasons why we came here was because we wanted to find some stability in our lives. I want to find a home. This is great the way it's happened because the pending NBA stuff is no longer pending. It's really gone away."

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