Billy Donovan says he'll remember 2011-12 team for how it matured through the course of the season
When the pain of watching an 11-point lead dwindle into a loss to Louisiville one game away from the NCAA Tournament Final Four finally subsides, Florida coach Billy Donovan said he'll have great memories of this team - and this season.
Asked what his lasting memory of this team will be, Donovan said: "A team that was really young and immature in a lot of ways and in front of my eyes I got a chance to watch them grow up and mature competitively. To see where Patric Young was at the start of the year, in January, to see where they finished. To see before Brad (Beal) was in November and December, see where he finished. Same with Erik Murphy. Our guys grew up.''
The Gators lost four of their last five games, then went on a strong run to advance to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. Donovan said even during the late losses, he saw a team that was growing and developing, which gave led him to believe they could make a strong run in the tournament.
"That was one of my difficulties during the course of the season, there was an immature competitiveness about them,'' Donovan said. "I don't mean that negatively, they just didn't understand what it took. But because of them being great kids, it was great to see them mature and grow that way, because you don't get to this point in time unless you have some substance. And I think our guys have some substance and some toughness and some qualities. They poured their heart and soul into trying to win the game, as did Louisville. We came up short.
"I told somebody this: this is life,'' he added. "I think when you pour your heart and soul into something and you don't get the results you want, you find out how important, and you find out the reasons why you do things. And can you come back with the same level of passion and enthusiasm and excitement to get better. But it hurts. And I think the further you go in this tournament, if we were fortunate enough to make it to the Final Four and lose, it gets almost more and more painful the deeper and deeper you go. On the other side of it, the more and more you win the more exciting it gets.''
The Gators finished the season 26-11.