By now it’s a foregone conclusion that longtime University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan will be the next coach of the OKC Thunder.
He first came to prominence as the starting point guard for Rick Pitino’s Providence Friars, that once made it to the Final Four back in 1987.
Following brief stints as an assistant under Pitino at Kentucky and being the head man at Marshall for 2 seasons from 1994-1996, Donovan took over at Florida prior to the 1996-1997 collegiate season.
“Billy The Kid” would go on to win 467 games at Florida, including making 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, most memorably winning back-to-back NCAA Titles in 2006 and 2007.
In February, he became the 2nd youngest coach to win 500 games, joining Bob Knight as the only coaches to win 500 games before turning 50.
He has sent dozens of players to play either overseas or to the NBA and has been a head coach with USA Basketball of three different occasions on various levels and could one day be the successor to Coach K on the National Team.
Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Players Coached By Billy Donovan At Florida…
Just missing the cut were players like David Lee, Donell Harvey, Matt Bonner, and Taurean Green but one player that does belong is Maurice Speights. Today, the 6’10 and 250lb forward is one of the NBA’s best mid range shooting big men for the Golden State Warriors but back in 2007, he was a little used freshman behind Al Horford and Joakim Noah on the 2007 National Champion Gators. He made a name for himself the following season for Donovan averaging 14.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks before declaring for the NBA Draft following his sophomore season. Speights has played for 4 teams over his 6 NBA seasons, setting a career high, averaging 10.4 points off the bench with the Warriors in 2015.
The huge hulk of a man came to Florida in 2010 as a much hyped Top 20 ranked high school player that was projected as a one-and-done talents. Fortunately for the Gators, it took some time for Young to develop, as he never missed a game in 4 seasons under Donovan, winning SEC Defensive POY and was named the 2014 NABC Pete Newell Big Man Award winner. He went undrafted in 2014 but played for Galatasaray Liv Hospital in the Turkish Basketball League last season.
One of Donovan’s first real stars at Florida, Haslem played center for the Gators from 1998-2002, helping lead them to National Runner-Up status in 2000. During his tenure at Florida, Haslem averaged 13.7 points and 6.7 rebounds, ranking 3rd all time in program history in points scored(1,782) and 10th in rebounds(831). Despite a stellar college career, Haslem went undrafted in 2002, playing one season in France, before latching on with the Miami Heat in 2003. Over the next 11 years, Haslem became a Heat legend, helping the team win 3 NBA Titles in 2006, 2012, and 2013, and currently is Miami’s all time leader in rebounds.
One of the fastest rising young stars in the NBA today, Beal has the potential to one day be at the top of this list. After being named the 2011 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year, Beal was touted as one of the nation’s top freshmen for the 2011-2012 season. Beal was spectacular in his lone season at Florida, averaging 14.8 points, and helping the Gators advance to the Elite Eight, before declaring for the 2012 NBA Draft. He was taken 3rd overall by the Washington Wizards and was named to the 2013 NBA All Rookie Team. He’s a key cog in the Wizards’ plan going forward, teaming with John Wall to form arguably one of the top backcourts in the NBA today.
The multi-talented forward earned a reputation as a clutch player during his time at Florida from 2007 to 2011, sinking numerous game winning shots, winning 2011 SEC Player of the Year, and helping take the Gators to the Elite Eight in 2011. After spending some time in France during the NBA lockout he joined the Houston Rockets as a 2nd Round selection, playing 3 seasons in Houston before moving on to the Dallas Mavericks prior to last season. In 4 NBA seasons, Parsons has averaged more than 14.5 points, and is a borderline All Star for the Mavs heading into next season.
Brewer was a key member of Donovan’s stellar recruiting class in 2004, that eventually would go on to win back-to-back NCAA Titles in 2006 and 2007, winning the 2007 Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and tallying the first triple-double in Gators history in 2005. After leaving Florida after his junior season, he was taken #7 overall by Minnesota in the 2007 NBA Draft. As an NBA pro, Brewer has emerged as the ultimate role player, playing for 5 different teams, helping the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA Championship. He now is a key cog with the Houston Rockets in the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
Miller was perhaps Billy Donovan’s most important recruit early in his tenure, playing 2 seasons with the Gators, helping Florida reach the Championship Game in 2000. Miller averaged more than 14 points in his sophomore season, before declaring early for the 2000 NBA Draft. He was taken #5 overall by the Orlando Magic, winning NBA Rookie of the Year in 2001, averaging 11.9 points per game. Miller developed a reputation as a deadly 3 point shooter, winning NBA 6th Man of the Year in 2006, and helping the Miami Heat win back-to-back NBA Titles in 2012 and 2013. He currently is a key player off the bench for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Williams was Billy Donovan’s first elite recruit, first playing with him at Marshall before following him to Florida. After sitting out a season due to transfer rules, Williams set a single game Gators mark for assists with 17 in a game in 1997. He played 20 games, averaging more than 17 points and 6.7 assists, before being suspended for drug use. He was the #7 overall selection by the Sacramento Kings in 1998, teaming with a young Chris Webber to make the Kings a playoff contender. Garnering the nickname “White Chocolate”, Williams became one of the NBA’s premier highlight reel floor generals, helping the Miami Heat win the 2006 NBA Title. After retiring from the NBA in 2011, Williams has been a regular on several Legends tours overseas with Allen Iverson and Dennis Rodman.
Another key player in Donovan’s legendary 2004 recruiting class, Horford started from day 1 at Florida, playing center as a freshman, and alongside David Lee, helped the Gators to the 2005 SEC Championship. In his sophomore and junior seasons, he helped lead the Gators to back-to-back NBA Championships, before being drafted 3rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2007. Horford has been a 3 time NBA All Star, averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds in 8 seasons.
The most highly touted and most demonstrative of Donovan’s 2004 recruiting class, Noah was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in 2006 and was projected a Lottery pick but returned along with his teammates Horford and Brewer the following season to win back-to-back NCAA crowns. He was the #9 overall pick of the Chicago Bulls in 2007 and has made 2 All Star appearances, was named 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and made the All NBA 1st Team in 2014. He has had a down season battling injuries and learning to play alongside Pau Gasol this season, but he remains one of the NBA’s best defensive big men, and premier Playoff performer, averaging 10.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 1,9 blocks in 48 career playoff games.