Ten Year Run Among UF's Greatest

Twelve years ago Billy Donovan came to Gainesville with the goal of establishing a legit upper tier program in the SEC. Donovan has delivered that and then some, leading UF to three Final Four appearances and a pair of NCAA Titles. But Wednesday night's win over South Carolina has given Donovan one of the greatest accomplishments in UF history.

To win 20 or more games for an entire decade is truly remarkable. Donovan has done it despite losing a slew of players to the NBA before their eligibility was up. Donovan has done it despite working at a program that had totaled five such seasons in the previous 80-plus years. Donovan has done it class, with a high graduation rate and now with a bulls-eye on his team's collective back.

This 20-win season is in many ways the most impressive of the ten. The Gators field one of the youngest, least experienced basketball teams in the entire country. Donovan slowly eased this nine-man squad into life on the Division One level, playing a weak pre-conference schedule while his kids learned how to play together. He was able to get his team to regroup after losses to Florida State and Ohio State before the first of the year. He guided the Gators to three straight wins after a loss at Ole Miss, and got his team to win this must-win game after losing four of the previous five games.

It's a joke that Billy Donovan has never been SEC Coach of the Year. He should have gotten the honor in 2006 by a wide margin. I would argue he was unfairly passed over in 2001 when the Gators lost two of their first three SEC games, lost Justin Hamilton, Brent Wright and Ted Dupay at different times and yet still won eleven of their final 12 conference games to tie for the SEC Title. If this team can somehow win ten or more SEC games despite losing the top six players from a year ago, that long overdue coaching honor should finally arrive in Gainesville.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel

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