Finally, a little ray of sunshine amidst the dark and stormy clouds that follow the 2014-15 basketball team.
The Gators jumped on top of Tennessee early and never let off the gas pedal, mauling the Volunteers 66-49 in Gainesville. Florida started out scorching hot from the outside, hitting seven of their first ten three pointers, and locked down on defense for 40 minutes, limiting the Vols to just 44 points from the field. Tennessee is a bad offensive team to begin with, but Florida held them to their third lowest point total of the year, so job well done in that respect. The win pushes Florida’s record up to 14-15, and all but assures the Gators of avoiding the dreaded preliminary round of the SEC Tournament.
It also gives Billy Donovan win #500 as a head coach, making him the second fastest to reach that mark- ever. The only other coach to reach 500 wins before his 50th birthday was Bob Knight. Think about that. What an exclusive club. What company. What an honor. However you personally choose to phrase it, what Billy Donovan has done is nothing short of special.
Consider the other great coaches in the game’s history. Dean Smith. Coach K. Roy Williams. John Wooden. Adolph Rupp. Jim Boeheim. None of them reached 500 wins before their 50th birthday. The winningest coach in the game- Mike Krzyzewski- won his 500th when he was 52. Donovan is 49. So, yeah, he’s way, way ahead of the famed Coach K to this point in his career in terms of winning games.
While it’s a damn shame that the milestone came with his worst team ever (no exaggeration), I’m absolutely ecstatic that Billy the Kid has put himself in the company that he has, because of who he is. Four Final Fours and two national championships are pretty much your golden ticket into the Hall of Fame, but now he’s put himself in position to be considered one of the greatest coaches of all time. The best part? Billy got his 500 wins by doing things the right way. He is a class act, no-nonsense, straight shooter and a man of great integrity. It’s not considered being a bandwagon fan to start rooting for Florida when they have a good year, because you’re rooting for a man who runs a program with real values and genuinely cares about the non basketball things that basketball coaches are supposed to care about, like classroom performance and off court behavior.
I’ll say it again: this team is going nowhere. But sometimes, greatness arises from rubble, and the greatness that Billy Donovan was responsible for in years past- the 2000 national runner up team, the 04’s and last year’s Final Four team- finally earned him a tangible reward in a season in which he desperately needs one.
Number 500, folks.
This team may be going nowhere. But Billy Donovan will be going somewhere special, namely the Hall of Fame. And the 500 wins that will someday get him there provide hope- and belief- that someday, he will put together a Gator team that will go somewhere, namely the NCAA Tournament.