Best Gator Hires – Part Five

We've already identified twenty outstanding individuals who made tremendous contributions to the Florida Gator sports program. Now we take it to another level with the ten best hires UF has ever made.

Remember this list is looking at the best hires the Gators have made over the past thirty years or so the same time I have been covering them. We also considered those already on hand when I began covering the Gators in the fall of 1978.

The basis for this ranking comes down to the success the coach had at UF, the risk level or inspiration of the hire and the prestige the coach eventually brought to Florida. Before we get into the top ten on our list, let's review the hires we ranked Nos. 11-30:

#30 Anne Marie Rogers (Lawler)
#29 Beverly Kearney
#28 Bill Koss
#27 Keith Tribble
#26 Norman Sloan
#25 Ron Aldy
#24 Andy Lopez
#23 Dr. Keith Carodine
#22 Greg Troy
#21 Norm Carlson
#20 Charley Pell
#19 Mimi Ryan
#18 Richard Giannini
#17 Bob Stoops
#16 Jamie McCloskey
#15 Buddy Alexander
#14 Larry Shyatt
#13 Becky Burleigh
#12 Ernestine Weaver
#11 Roland Thornqvist

#10 Carol Ross ----- Florida had not done so well with two previous decisions to hire assistants off other SEC basketball coaching staffs, so I was more than a little chagrined that the Gators went that route again in choosing a women's basketball coach in the spring of 1990. Carol Ross came to the Gators from a strong program at Auburn, but the choice excited few if any around here. Ross posted a surprising 17-11 record in her first season, and after a 15-13 campaign the following year, her program took off. Beginning with the 1992-93 campaign the Gators won at least 18 games for ten straight seasons, earning nine NCAA bids and one trip to the NIT. Ross raised the talent level and competitiveness of Florida Women's Basketball to a level few if any thought could happen here. The only blemish on the resume was the inability for win an SEC Title, but all in all, she was a truly great hire.

#9 Randy Reese ----- The idea of hiring a high school coach to run a college program seems absurd today, but it worked out pretty well for the Gators in 1976. Randy Reese came over from Jacksonville Episcopal. Reese coached the Gator men and women for 14 years and had phenomenal success. Florida's women won the AIAW National Title in 1979 and the first NCAA title in 1982. The Gator men followed with NCAA Titles in 1983 and 84. Reese posted an unreal record in dual meets, 100-21 with the men and 118-7 with the women. Reese teams won 13 SEC Titles and he brought the greatest swimmer in US history, Tracy Caulkins to Gainesville.

#8 Lon Kruger ----- Norm Sloan was fired two weeks into fall practice in 1989 and the Gator Basketball program was then destroyed from within by Don "Saddam" DeVoe. Florida was desperate for an infusion of class and credibility and they got it in boatloads with Kruger. The college basketball world was stunned that Florida was able to convince Kruger to leave his alma mater (Kansas State) to clean up Florida's image. Kruger put together one of my favorite Gator teams of all-time, the 1994 squad that used the motto "find a way" as a calling card. They found a way to get the key rebound, to make the extra pass to win the race to every loose ball. Eventually they "found the way" to the Final Four before Grant Hill's unbelievable second half performance ended the run. Who knows how Florida's basketball fortunes might have changed if Kruger had been able to get Vince Carter to wear Orange and Blue?

#7 Jeremy Foley ----- He's the first Athletic Director to have his school simultaneously the National Champs in football and men's basketball and he ranks #7?!!? Are you kidding me, Vettel? Well, lets go back to the criteria I am using. Foley has produced phenomenal results and brought great prestige to UF, but his hiring was a total no brainer. Not only had Jeremy been established as the day-to-day boss for the Gators for the five years prior to ascending to the top job, he was interim Athletic Director for five months beginning in the fall of 1986. So his hiring had a risk factor of zero. Still his performance has established Foley as arguably the top A.D. in the nation as evidenced by the fact he made many of the hiring decisions we are saluting in this series.

  • Part One
  • Part Two
  • Part Three
  • Part Four

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