Billy Donovan thrilled about NCAA Tournament berth - for his players
There was a lighthearted air about Florida coach Billy Donovan during his weekly media session, clearly a sign that Donovan is ecstatic about his team's return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.
But Donovan, who has coached two national championship teams, and participated in the Final Four as a collegian, said his excitement is for his players, not himself.
So has the weight of missing the tournament the past two seasons been lifted from his shoulders?
“No, not one bit,'' Donovan said. "For me as a coach, the only thing that I want to do is try and help our guys experience it. I would say this: if it all ended for me without getting to the tournament this year and I never coached again, I had the chance to play in the Final Four, I had the chance to get drafted and play in the NBA, I was a part of five Final Fours, had the chance to compete as a coach in three National
Championship games, have coached and won conference championships, and I’ve had the chance to win two National Championships. It’s not about me. I’ve experienced all that stuff. There’s nothing more in
college basketball that I can experience as it relates to winning. But it is so rewarding to take a group of guys, that have no clue what goes in to any of this stuff, and see them grow and get to the NCAA
Tournament. The pressure I felt was not for me, it was to help those guys understand and see what goes into this, to take advantage of their talent, to be unselfish. I felt the pressure on myself to help them. I
didn’t feel pressure to get back into the Tournament. I’m happy that I can be a part of helping those guys.”
It was a long 48 hours from the time the Gators lost to Mississippi State in the SEC tournament quarterfinals Friday until Selection Sunday.
"We all were in the locker room, watching the regions go, and hoping that we got in, freshman Kenny Boynton said. "I had my head down and I heard everybody screaming and everybody just jumped up. For some reason, I had my head down for a minute, then everybody just jumped up. I thought it was 50-50, but going into it and talking to people, everybody had their different opinions. I just wasn’t sure anymore. When I saw it, I was just so excited.''
For junior forward Chandler Parsons, who spent his first two postseasons in the NIT, finally making it was a huge relief - a better feeling than he'd imagined.
"It was very emotional,'' Parsons said. "I was telling my mom, winning state (title), hitting game winners, seeing our name on there was the best feeling I’ve felt in awhile.''