Best Gator Hires – Part Seven

With the hiring of Kevin O'Sullivan to inject some energy into the Gator baseball program, Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley has to hope that he has finally made a "great" hire for that program. Foley has made a number of hires throughout the years and most have worked out very well and some have been phenomenally successful.

So here we are, the three best hires in the recent history of the University of Florida. Individuals who produced results far beyond all reasonable expectations and far beyond what the respective programs had ever done in Gainesville. I look forward to hearing from many of you with your thoughts on how accurate (or ridiculous) you feel this list was.

First, a reminder about the selections ranked Nos. 4 -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
#9 Randy Reese
#8 Lon Kruger
#7 Jeremy Foley
#6 Urban Meyer
#5 Rhonda Faehn
#4 Mary Wise

#3 Steve Spurrier ----- Even though he was the most obvious choice for the Gators in December of 1989, Steven Orr Spurrier proved to be the most important hire the Gators ever made. From day one his confidence and positive outlook changed the mindset of Gators everywhere. There was no reason, he insisted that the Gators couldn't beat Auburn and Georgia back-to-back. There was nothing negative about playing Georgia in Florida every year in a stadium called the Gator Bowl. His quarterback was likely to be first team All-SEC even though he wasn't sure who it would be. Well all of that came true and more. Florida topped the SEC standings in Spurrier's first year, claimed the SEC Title in 1991 and added four straight championships in an incredible run from 1993-96. Spurrier's offense re-wrote SEC record books and he became public enemy No. 1 throughout the conference. He is simply the most significant figure in Gator sports history.

#2 Andy Brandi ----- He was well regarded as an individual tennis coach when the Gators asked him to take over the Florida women's program. It turns out collegiate coaching experience is not that big of a deal. Brandi posted a 460-43 in 17 seasons with the Gators and coached his team to three NCAA Championships. Brandi's Gators were also the NCAA runner up on five occasions. Brandi also coached the Gators to four individual singles national titles and four more in doubles. From 1987 until his final season of 2001, Brandi's team made it to the Final Four every year but one. That's an amazing track record for a man who was a novice when it comes to the college game when he took over.

#1 Billy Donovan ----- Donovan tops this list not because his coaching record exceeds the others because it doesn't. Instead, I consider Donovan to be the best hire in school history because it was a risky, inspired selection in a high profile sport that paid off far beyond anyone's most optimistic expectations. Donovan had all of two years as a head coach and was not yet 31 years old when Jeremy Foley gave him the chance to take the Florida program to new heights. Foley had seen both Norm Sloan and Lon Kruger enjoy "pockets" of success, but thought Florida could be a consistent winner. He passed on established coaches like Tim Floyd and Mike Jarvis to take a chance on a young coach with a style of play that might sell tickets and energize the program.

Well you run out of adjectives trying to describe just how well that decision turned out. It's truly remarkable what Donovan has accomplished in the eleven years he's been in Gainesville. Florida is now an elite program with two NCAA Titles, three SEC Tournament Titles and three SEC Championships on his watch. The Gators will go into next season seeking their tenth straight 20-win season and NCAA Tournament bid. Not bad for a school that had five of each in the 80 years before Donovan's arrival. For all the above, Billy Donovan is the best hire in Gator sports history.

Don't you agree?

  • Part One
  • Part Two
  • Part Three
  • Part Four
  • Part Five
  • Part Six

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