Bulls coach Donovan recalls his initial move to Florida
Coaching in Florida for the first time with the Bulls, Billy Donovan was asked to recall his landscape-altering decision to become head coach at the University of Florida in 1996.
Under Donovan, the Gators won consecutive NCAA titles behind Joakim Noah and Al Horford, and made four trips to the Final Four.
"I had a really good team coming back at Marshall," Donovan said. "You guys all remember Jason Williams. He was with me at Marshall. John Brannen, who is now the head coach at Cincinnati, was on that team. Bimbo Coles' brother, Sidney Coles, was on that team. So we had a really good team coming back."
Florida didn't have a great basketball history at the time, but did go to the Final Four with Lon Kruger in '94 and to the Sweet Sixteen in '87 behind Vernon Maxwell and Dwayne Schintzius. Before '87, the Gators had never been to the NCAA Tournament.
"Really, the decision came down to my relationship with Jeremy Foley, the AD," Donovan said. "He was there the whole 19 years. It was an incredible relationship. I think there was a real strong shared vision in terms of what we needed to do.
"Listen, the first two years I was there we had two straight losing seasons. And it was two straight losing seasons before I got there. So it took us some to get some different guys in there."
In Donovan's fourth year, Florida reached the NCAA title game with a team led by future NBA star Mike Miller.