Assistant Coach Quest Continues

One unfortunate byproduct of Florida's basketball success has been turnover on the coaching staff. While the departure of Lewis Preston for Penn State after the 2008 season was a good thing for both parties, Billy Donovan couldn't have anticipated losing his replacement Shaka Smart to VCU as a head coach after just one year. As a result, the Gators are looking for new coaching blood again.

There is a positive that comes with the frustration of staff turnover for Donovan. Because his assistants have been getting head coaching positions and have then proved well trained enough to be successful in their new roles, a spot on the UF staff is an extremely coveted opportunity. The staff currently leans toward a background working with guards, so a coach with big man experience could be a priority this time around. Instate connections are always a positive, although not necessarily essential.

Some names that were circulating at the Final Four as guys Donovan was interested in are now off the market. One was Ohio State's Archie Miller. After Miller's brother got the Arizona head coach job, he moved with him to join the Wildcats so that's not a possibility any longer. Former Kentucky assistant Glynn Cyprien was mentioned, particularly in conjunction with his ties to recruit Eric Bledsoe, but he accepted a job with Memphis today. Donovan's kept his cards extremely close to his vest, but here are some others still being mentioned as possibilities on the college grapevine.

TONY PUJOL - Pujol, the first assistant Anthony Grant hired at VCU, has not yet been named a part of his staff at Alabama, while another member has. That may be due to interest on Pujol's part in a spot on the Florida staff, although he could be a factor for the open head coaching spot at Appachian State as well. Pujol is a Miami native who spent over a decade as a high school coach there. Grant and Pujol signed five players on the current VCU squad out of Florida, including stud big man Larry Sanders. Having worked under Grant, he already has a level of familiarity with the style Donovan would like to use. Pujol's in his late-30s and is an intense coach on the sidelines.

ADAM GINSBURG - Ginsburg is in his fourth year on the UMass staff, a holdover from the Travis Ford era by current coach Derek Kellogg. More importantly, he has a masters degree that he earned while working as a staff assistant under Donovan in Gainesville during the 1998 and 1999 seasons. Ginsburg is a well connected northeastern recruiter, but also helped the Minutemen land a talented Florida kid in Freddie Riley (who played at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia this year after his high school career at Ocala Vanguard). Donovan has recommended Ginsburg to others along the way - it might be time to look at bringing him back into the fold.

MARK LIEBERMAN - Lieberman coached Ray Shipman at Monsignor Pace in Miami. He also was a co-head coach of the most recent McDonald's All-America game East squad, an indication of how respected he is in the profession. He's a UF alum, coaches a style of ball similar to Donovan's, and has won four state titles in twelve years. While hiring a high school coach would surprise some people, his recruiting ties in south Florida could be very helpful.

RUSS SPRINGMANN - Springmann's a Texas assistant who worked as an office assistant during Billy Donovan's first two years in Gainesville. He's a well regarded recruiter and considered one of the top assistants in the country. Donovan has approached him before about joining the staff, and it's doubtful he'd be willing to leave Texas this time either. The one thing that might cause Springmann to reconsider is that he lost out for the VCU head coaching slot to Smart. Since he wants to be a head coach, Gainesville could prove a better launching pad. Odds are the phone call's already been made and politely declined, though.


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