According to reports, Florida is zeroing in on Todd Golden to be the next head coach of the Gator men’s basketball program. Golden just completed his third season as the head coach of the San Francisco Dons last night with what was, at least for his program, a crushing defeat to Murray State. Let’s start with the positives about Todd Golden.
There will be plenty of time to dissect the questions later. And there are many of them.
As a program, San Francisco actually has a pretty solid basketball history. Unfortunately for today’s generation of Dons fans, that history was all during the 1950’s, when San Francisco won back to back national championships, and then reached a third straight Final Four the ensuing year. The Dons hadn’t even been to the NCAA Tournament in nearly a quarter of a century.
That is, until this season, when Golden led them to the Big Dance as a 10 seed. The Dons had their chances against Murray State in that first round game, too, taking Matt McMahon’s squad to overtime in a back and forth contest that eventually went the Racers’ way. Had Golden’s team come out on top, the Dons’ next opponent in the Round of 32 would have been St. Peters, a #15 seed fresh off a historic upset of Kentucky yet would have certainly been a massive underdog against San Francisco.
With a Sweet 16 appearance beside his name, Golden’s resume probably looks far more appealing than it does now to some fans- something that isn’t fair because two or three shots rimming out and then the gift of a #15 seed in the Round of 32 on the path to the Sweet 16 for a #7 or #10 seed (a gift that I’ll again remind everyone that Mike White respectfully declined) objectively do not determine how good a coach is. But that’s ultimately moot because his team’s season did end in the round that the sum of the regular season indicated it should end.
Also worth noting is that the advanced basketball metrics website KenPom loves San Francisco. Under Golden this year, the Dons are currently rated as KenPom’s 22nd best team in the country, 41st in adjusted offense and 20th in adjusted defense in the country. And KenPom has San Francisco rated as the 279th “luckiest” team out of 358 Division I basketball teams, meaning that luck has decidedly gone against them this season.
Speaking of advanced analytics, Golden is known as something of a “Moneyball” type of program CEO, meaning that his decisions are driven by all the data he can get his hands on. That alone would certainly be an upgrade over Mike White, who seemed to make CEO-type decisions haphazardly and almost even downright randomly at times.
Golden is also referred to by those who follow his San Francisco program as a master of innovation and adept at connecting with players- qualities that should sound familiar, because they are part of why Billy Napier has hit the ground running on the recruiting trail.
But while this season was certainly impressive, it was still only one season, Todd Golden is still only 36 years, and there’s ultimately no way of knowing if he caught lightning in a bottle with this team (despite that luck ranking) or if he truly is a brilliant young coaching star of tomorrow. Undoubtedly, Scott Stricklin thought the latter when he hired him, and undoubtedly the payoff of hiring such a coach is huge if he hits, but if Todd Golden ultimately is the hire, Stricklin is marrying his legacy at Florida with this hire every bit as much as he did with the hire of Billy Napier.
So I like Golden from a potential standpoint, from a “what can this program possibly look like in three years?” standpoint, and from a strictly futuristic standpoint. The ceiling is limitless, as his Moneyball type approach to things, innovative abilities, and player relationship building abilities mean he could be the next great Gator basketball coach.
But while the ceiling is limitless, the floor is also bottomless. We simply don’t know if he’ll pan out because he’s never had the reins of a program anywhere close to the likes of Florida. So if he is indeed the hire, all we can do is wait and see.