Donovan Talks Wednesday

Florida head coach Billy Donovan talks to the national media as his Gators prepare for their first game of the NCAA Tournament against northwestern State. The third-seeded Gators are coming off of two straight Elite Eight appearances and his squad may have something to prove after a very good season but rough finish to the regular season and SEC tournament.

Here is the transcript and video from Wednesday's press conference with Florida Coach Billy Donovan.

COACH DONOVAN: We're excited to be here in the city of Austin and also being part of the NCAA tournament. I realize that we have a great challenge in front of us tomorrow against Northwestern State. Coach McConathy has done a terrific job with his team. A veteran team.
I think everybody knows about their style of play and their system. So a lot to get prepared for coming out of the SEC tournament and I know our guys, our coaching staff and our program are excited about the opportunity to play tomorrow night.

Q. Can you talk about your coaching against a team that's going to run like 90 players at you. And I don't know if you ever experienced anything quite like that. Do you change your substitution patterns at all?
COACH DONOVAN:
No, not really. I think there's going to be one you're always for us we're going to sub based on fatigue, foul trouble, those kind of things. But I also do think matchups. If there is a matchup to their substitution that we need to change. But that wouldn't be anything different than what we would normally do in a given game, so to speak.
There's going to be some lineups that we could have on the court that may not be great matchups for us and from the bench got to be aware of that. And maybe make some adjustments or changes based on how big or small they are. But that's something that we'll have to keep an eye on.
But overall, going into the game, it's not going to be a situation for us, we have got kind of our rotations and things that we need to do and some of those rotations are dictated and predicated on fatigue, foul trouble and matchups.

Q. Can you talk about some of the better teams you had that made runs in the tournament, had some veteran players, and that came up big at tournament time. Can you talk about how much experience plays once you get into this one and done situation?
COACH DONOVAN:
Well I would say this; to me the most important thing this time of year is maybe not necessarily the experience part of it. I remember in 2006 we came in with a very inexperienced team and we won six games.

Q. You had some older guys though?
COACH DONOVAN:
Yeah, but I mean Horford, Noah, those guys played a little bit, but I tell you what, you can have all the experience you want, but if you don't play well a lot of that experience is wasted. I think the one good part for us going into the game is at least our guys have been in this environment, they have been in this venue, they have experienced this.
Now it's a totally different set of circumstances, different team, different year, everything's totally different. But I don't think our guys understand all the things that you have to go through, because this time of year for a young kid, if they have never been through it, it's a little bit different. It's a little bit different. But I think the experience, if you play well, can help you. But if you don't play well, I'm not so sure how much it helps.

Q. Can you talk specifically about Erik and Kenny, just all they have been through and just their last chance to I know that they want to be part of more than just a regional final.
COACH DONOVAN:
I think that they're no different than any player that's never experienced that. When you get into this tournament, I think that that's everybody's dream and goal. I remember being a senior in college myself and going to, I remember going the first two years, not even getting into post season play. And then we made it to the NIT in my junior year and then, my senior year, made it to the Final Four.
I think every kid that gets into this tournament, that's a dream. I just think maybe those guys have been a little bit more outspoken. I think if you checked with Northwestern State or Illinois or UCLA or Minnesota, I think every kid's dream I don't think there's anything abnormal about that for them wanting that.
I think they also are mature enough and understand that the most important thing right now is what's in front of us today. Because tomorrow in this tournament is never, ever guaranteed or promised. I think that they realize what a challenge it will be tomorrow night playing against Northwestern State. But I think that that's the goal in this tournament, to keep advancing.

Q. Can you talk about, a year ago, you went through this tournament without Will. He was here, but he obviously didn't practice, didn't play rather. On a personal level, how happy are you that he's got healthy enough with his surgery and his back to where he is at this point and is able to play.
COACH DONOVAN:
I think he gives us a little bit more depth. He gives us another defender, another rebounder. I still think I think a lot of times when somebody's cleared to play after injury, the normal response is he's going to be exactly like he was before he got hurt.
Usually a guy that's been out for a month, that's never the case. There's usually a period of time that goes on. I still don't think he's much better than he was going back to our Alabama and Vanderbilt game. But I still think he's not at the level he was. I think he can get there. We'll need that in a hurry. But there's no question from a depth standpoint and what he brings to the table for our team, having him out there is certainly much more important than having him sitting on the sidelines on crutches.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH DONOVAN:
I'm happy for him. That's a hard thing, because I was with him when we went through having a sit down and talking to him and he needed knee surgery. And that he probably wasn't going to be able to play if he didn't have knee surgery.
Just going through what he went through, as you mentioned, last year with his broken foot and missing this time, I mean he really, he cried about as hard as a kid I've ever seen cry before. Because he wanted to play.
The option was to wait and try to manage it, but it had gotten to such a problem with all the swelling and the bone chips in there that he couldn't have done it. And we needed to do it immediately or he needed to wait until after the year was over with. But I think his initial reaction was, I can play, I'll try it with it. But it would have never worked.
So I'm happy that he can play and experience this. I think the one thing that was probably frustrating to him when he did come back during the SEC, the end of the schedule there, is that I think he put a lot of pressure on himself to perform at a level that he wasn't capable of performing at because he was coming off that injury. I think there was part of him that felt like he was letting everybody down, because there is this big excitement about Will gets back, he's cleared to play. And no one takes into consideration, well, you know what, he's back, but he's probably really not back to where he was.

Q. You seemed really emotional in the SEC tournament championship game. Was that seeding or momentum or just every time you go out on the floor and does your team feed off that?
COACH DONOVAN:
I hope it's not every time I go out on the court, because I wouldn't be able to coach too much longer doing that.
No, I think that sometimes in certain situations there's things you see going on, on the court, you get emotional and passionate about what you want to see from your team. When they're not doing those things, I can get animated.
But this has been a great group to coach. They have been, they have gotten along real well. We have had really good chemistry, they're unselfish, good kids, they work hard. But I think every game, every situation's always a little bit different going into these, whether it's the SEC tournament or the NCAA tournament.
But I don't go in with any preconceived notions of how I'm going to act or be. But there are certain things that they know that probably are going to set me off a little bit on the sidelines. More than anything else, just trying to get them to fire up and compete and play.

Q. To follow up, a lot of people compare Florida and Texas athletics programs. How would you say the interest in Florida basketball compares to the passion in Florida football?
COACH DONOVAN:
Well, I've said this: This is the unique thing about Florida to me being here now 17 years. In the southeast there is nothing sport wise that takes more precedent over football. There is a southeastern flavor for football that it is just there. I mean, I think it's a long, rich standing tradition when you talk about Florida and Georgia and Alabama and Auburn and Tennessee and all the teams.
The difference at Florida, in my opinion, is the University of Florida, to its fans, alumni and boosters, is bigger than any sports situation. And that's the thing that makes Florida, I think, so unique is that people that are supporting Florida, when Florida's playing, whether it be in volleyball, baseball, football, basketball, the university takes precedent over any sport.
There's a level of pride there in Florida, the Gator Nation, that thing. So I've never ever, since I've been there, ever looked at it football versus basketball or anything like that. I just looked at that I'm part of a great athletics program and we're one sport and the goal is to have the best overall athletics department in the country. And you need a lot of sports to do well there. And that's the one thing that's been positive for me is I think sometimes, at least back when I got hired, people always wanted to create a divide between football and basketball. And create animosity. And that couldn't be further from the truth of what the environment is at Florida. Everybody supports each other, everybody helps each other. I've been at Florida with Spurrier and around Zook and Urban and now Will. And I've had great relationships with all those guys. And that's the one thing that I find enjoyable about Florida is the people that represent Florida, when Florida's involved, there's passion, regardless of what sport it is.

Q. A lot's been made of you guys being 0 6 in games six points or less. How do you explain that? And in a tournament where most games or a lot of games come down to six points or less, why are you guys in better shape now to combat that?
COACH DONOVAN:
I don't know if we are or we're not. I think a lot of times it's all how you want to look at things. Because we have beaten teams on our schedule by 20 or more points twice as many times as we have lost close games.
So I think in those situations, to me, the more experiences you have, the more opportunities I think you have to handle those better. And for us it's been different stuff. That's been probably the part that's been somewhat baffling for me a little bit is it's been different things.
In the Kentucky game, the last game of the year, we couldn't make a shot. We missed, I think we were had five turnovers out of 15 possessions and went 0 10 from the field.
Against Mississippi we were 3 11 I think from the free throw line in the second half. For whatever reason.
Those things have obviously hurt us. Turnovers have hurt us. I think a lot of times people want to go back and look at the last possession, but to me when you got a 12 point lead going into the second half against Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, that wasn't an end of game problem, that was a coming out of the locker room problem, where pretty quickly the game got tied up.
So I would say this: I have confidence in our guys. I think that they have confidence in themselves. When that situation comes up, we'll see how you respond. I never ever think anything that happens in the past equals your future. Just because, if we made every game winning shot, doesn't mean we're going to make the next one. And if we miss every single game winning shot, doesn't mean we're going to miss the next one.
We have got to I think our team has grown and matured and gotten better in some of those situations. I think we have made better decisions, I think we have executed better. We have not finished plays like we need to.

Q. You weren't too pleased with practices leading up to Kentucky, but how has practice been lately? Is there a new intensity, a new focus? Are you pleased with how practice has gone?
COACH DONOVAN:
Well, it was a little bit, I think coming off of playing three games in three days coming out of Nashville, you know, we gave them off on Monday to recuperate. I thought that we practiced hard Tuesday and Wednesday and then practiced again here today. They have been pretty good.
I think our guys understand that everybody's fighting for the same things during the course of the year. You're using your non conference to prepare for your conference. Then you're trying to compete for a conference championship. Then you're trying to compete for a conference tournament championship. And then ultimately what you want to do at the end of the day is you want to be in this event. And I've always said, this event's like the lottery, you got to be in it to win it. And that's what makes it so special is it's so wide open and anybody can beat anybody.
I think our guys are excited. I think listen, if you're not excited to play this time of year, you shouldn't be out there right now. This is what college basketball is all about right now.

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