Donovan-Masiello: 2 Pitino pupils in a pod
As the rumblings evolved into reports about Steve Masiello replacing Stan Heath at USF, many immediately began drawing comparisons to another successful Rick Pitino protege who works two hours up the interstate.
Upon further delving, the similarities between Masiello and Florida coach Billy Donovan have leapfrogged striking and have landed smack on startling. Here are some of them (But bear in mind, Masiello hasn't officially been named Bulls coach yet):
* Both are New York natives
* Both played on a Rick Pitino team that reached a Final Four. Donovan was the spunky backcourt catalyst of Pitino's 1987 Providence team that reached the national semifinals, Masiello a walk-on guard for Pitino's '97 Kentucky team that fell to Arizona in the title game.
* Masiello was a ballboy for the Knicks. Donovan played part of a season for the Knicks.
* Donovan spent five seasons as a Pitino assistant at Kentucky, Masiello spent six seasons as a Pitino assistant at Louisville.
* If Masiello is hired by USF, he'll inherit a program two years removed from its greatest season ever -- just like Donovan. Donovan was hired in 1996, two years after the Gators reached their first Final Four. Masiello would come on board two years after the Bulls reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
* In their first head coaching jobs, both revived foundering programs. Donovan went 35-20 in two seasons at Marshall, which finished 9-18 the year before his arrival. Masiello inherited a Manhattan team that won six games in 2011, and led it to a 60-39 mark in three years.