Almost 20 years ago, the Florida Gators took a chance on a young coach with very little experience. Florida hired Marshall head coach Billy Donovan to lead its basketball program, hoping that the Rick Pitino protégé could lift the Gators’ program to new heights.
Little did they know that Donovan would take Florida basketball to places it had never been before. During his 19 years in Gainesville, Donovan led the Gators to four Final Four appearances, including back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
Last week, Donovan left Florida after 19 seasons to become head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. That left a void in Gainesville, but it also left a program that was in much better shape now than it was when Donovan arrived in arrived in 1996. This is now a program with expectations of being competitive not only in the SEC, but on a national level.
Athletic Director Jeremy Foley had several big names in the mix for the job. Those included Archie Miller of Dayton, Chris Mack of the Xavier Musketeers and possibly Gregg Marshall of Wichita State.
On Thursday, Foley got his man, hiring Michael White of Louisiana Tech. Foley is hoping to use the same formula that worked with Donovan, hiring a young coach who has had success in a lesser conference.
White had an impressive 101-40 record during four seasons with Louisiana Tech, but his team failed to make the NCAA Tournament in any of those four seasons.
The Gators will expect to be playing in the postseason each and every year, and the Dunedin, Fla., native will be expected to lift the Gators to those heights. He inherits a team that had a losing record last season and one that has seen some player defections in the offseason.
Foley is hoping to use a formula that worked for Florida before. It remains to be seen if that formula will work again.