When Jeremy Foley, athletic director for the Florida Gators, hired Billy Donovan as Florida’s head basketball coach, the program was in need of a change. Florida had little history prior to Donovan, so Foley was able to take a chance on a young coach.
As college basketball fans know, the move to hire Donovan turned out to be pure genius. Donovan built the Florida program into an annual contender in the SEC, took the Gators to four Final Four appearances and won consecutive NCAA Tournament titles in 2006 and 2007.
What was once seen as an opportunity with great potential had been turned into a destination job by Donovan.
Foley used a familiar formula for Donovan’s replacement, hiring Michael White, an up-and-coming head coach from Louisiana Tech.
The job that White steps into will be a much different one than what Donovan inherited upon his arrival in 1996. The Florida program is not loaded with NBA prospects, but there is talent on the roster. Dorian Finney-Smith elected to return to Gainesville for his senior season. Finney-Smith was Florida’s leading scorer last year.
Also returning for Florida are forward Alex Murphy and guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza. These players give Florida a solid nucleus to build around heading into the 2015-16 season.
White’s job will be to continue to bring in talent to help Florida compete with SEC rivals like the Kentucky Wildcats. That will be much easier for him to do than it was for Donovan, which gives White an advantage that Donovan didn’t have upon his arrival.
On the flip side, White will need to win right away, whereas Donovan was given some time to build the program.
The Florida job is a much better position now than it was 19 years ago prior to the arrival of Billy Donovan. Now, Michael White must sustain the success that has come to be expected in Gainesville.