Gators' Donovan No Longer "Billy the Kid": Now Among College Basketball's Elite

Bruce HorovitzContributor IIIJanuary 15, 2013

BATON ROUGE, LA - JANUARY 12: Billy Donovan, head coach of the Florida Gators instructs his players from the sideline during a game against the LSU Tigers at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on January 12, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It’s time for Florida coach Billy Donovan to be recognized among college basketball’s elite.

Donovan, now in his 17th year in Gainesville, is a mere two wins away from his 400th victory as the Gators head basketball coach. His overall record, including two years at Marshall, is 433-180.

During his tenure at Florida, the Gators have won back-to back national titles (2006-2007) and appeared in 11 NCCA tournaments, including three championship games and four Elite Eight appearances in the past seven seasons. According to the University of Florida Athletic site Gatorzone, his .737 career winning percentage (28-10) in the NCAA Tournament ranks third among active coaches, trailing only Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.

Donovan’s teams have also won four SEC championships and captured three consecutive SEC tournament titles from 2005-2007.

Perhaps most impressive is that Donovan has had an astonishing 14 NBA draft picks compared to the national average of 1.7 among active NCAA coaches, according to the site No less than five of his former assistants are now head coaches in Division I NCAA basketball (Larry Shyatt, Wyoming; Anthony Grant, Alabama; Donnie Jones, University of Central Florida; Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth University and Rick Pitino Jr., Florida International).

Yet, Donovan inexplicably continues to fly under the national radar. Only once, in 2011, did he receive SEC Coach of the Year honors and he's never been recognized as a National Coach of the Year.

His reign at Florida has been virtually squeaky clean and other than a brief flirtation with the Orlando Magic  in 2007, he has managed to avoid any kind of controversy. It is fair game to ask if the Gator Nation fully appreciates all it has with Donovan. Crowds at the O’Connell Center are far from sellouts, but Donovan continues to steadily steward one of the nation’s elite basketball programs at a so-called “football school.”

With all due respect to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, it is Billy Donovan who may be most deserving of the title “Best Gator Coach” in the school’s history.

At age 47, it is time for Gator fans, and more importantly the national media, to drop the moniker “Billy the Kid” and recognize Donovan’s achievements as one of college basketball’s preeminent coaches.