It’s strange to think that Billy Donovan is the longest tenured coach in the SEC. Being the elder statesman is definitely not slowing down, though. At only 48 years of age, he has already led the Florida Gators to three national championship game appearances. Even though he lost in 200o to Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Donovan won two of those games in 2006 and 2007. Florida became the first school to repeat as champions since Duke in 1991, and Donovan became only one of four men to ever coach repeat champions. More recently, the Gators have been to the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament for the last three years in a row. His college coach and mentor Rick Pitino was just recently inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, becoming the fourth active coach to have the honor. Is Billy Donovan next?
Usually, I would use this space to give reasons why Billy Donovan may not make the Hall of Fame. Or, he may just have to wait until he hangs up the slacks and tie before they will give him the honor. However, Donovan has done absolutely nothing to make me believe he will be left out. As many coaching years as he has left, I don’t believe anyone is in a rush to get him out of Gainesville. He is most famous for those back-to-back national titles, but he deserves a lot of credit for his character as well. He has been the coach of the United States U-19 team and a noted philanthropist. Every season, he is contacted about other job opportunities and turns them down. Despite a five-day stint with the Orlando Magic, he has always been loyal to the University of Florida. After those rumors of him joining Orlando, he went and signed the nation’s best recruiting class in 2007 per Rivals.com. High character and loyalty are extremely hard to find in the world we live in today, and Donovan holds both qualities with high distinction.
Back-t0-back National Titles, three Final Fours, three SEC Tournament Championships, five SEC Regular Season Championships and two-time SEC Coach of the Year. With those kinds of accolades, how can anyone not think of Billy Donovan as a future Hall of Fame inductee? I think he gets the nod before he retires. I personally don’t believe he needs to do anything else to cement his legacy or prove a case. However, he will continue to win at Florida. He will continue to succeed on and off the basketball court. And he will do so with class, pride and loyalty. That, my friends, is the reason why Billy Donovan is a one of a kind guy, one of a kind coach and future Hall of Fame inductee.
Brian Lewis is an SEC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. You can add him to your network on Google for more of his work.