Florida's Billy Donovan, Minnesota's Tubby Smith friends and familiar foes
Florida coach Billy Donovan and Minnesota coach Tubby Smith will face off for the 25th time tonight when the Gators and Golden Gophers play in the NCAA Tournament third round in Austin.
It's familar ground for both.
During his tenure at Georgia and Kentucky, Smith and Donovan have met 24 times with Smith holding a 14-10 advantage.
Tonight may have the biggest implications of all their matchups - a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 is on the line.
"At some point in time if you're going up against him, you know your team has probably risen to that level of good play,'' Smith said of Donovan. "Because his teams are here on a regular basis."
Donovan said he and Smith have a very close relationship, but it will have no bearing on tonight's game.
"Tubby and I have got a very good relationship,'' Donovan said. "I love his family. But I think the one thing for myself, I'm sure Tubby feels the same way, really all the time is the players are playing on the floor. They're playing against each other. It's never really been about that.
What I look at more than anything else, is who we're playing against and what they do and what we have to do to try to be successful in the game. Even though it's Tubby at the other end of the sideline I'm not watching him. I'm watching the court and film, I'm not watching him, I'm watching what's going on on the court. All I can say is Tubby is a terrific coach, he's done a great job with his team. They're very talented, they're very gifted, they have got a lot of experience, they have played in a very, very difficult conference, they're a tough, hardened team and with all those things being said, I think we all realize at Florida what a great challenge we have in front of us."
Smith, who left Kentucky six years ago, remembered that he and Donovan's teams have had some epic battles against each other in a relationship that spans decades. And, he said, their styles are similar in many ways.
"We have gone back way when Billy first got into college coaching as a graduate assistant at Kentucky and we have had our battles when I was at Kentucky and at Georgia,'' Smith said. "But I'm happy to be here facing him again in this type of a venue versus any other. So we play - I think we try to coach and try to teach and play a style similar. He's got some outstanding players and what Billy's been able to do, what he's done at Florida has just been outstanding. Florida's a program that really wasn't noted for its basketball and he's taken it to unbelievable heights. So I certainly want to compliment him and his team on their 27 wins. Doing the things they have done in the SEC, winning championships. So, yeah, I know he's the Dean, so he's getting older now, of that conference. It's something to be said when you're - because Billy got involved in coaching I think at a very early age and was very fortunate, I'm sure he'll say the same thing, and he has done an unbelievable job in coaching and growing that program."