Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Best coach? How about Gators' Billy Donovan?

When people talk about the best coaches in college basketball right now, the conversation usually centers around Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. Then you throw in Louisville's Rick Pitino, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and North Carolina's Roy Williams. Maybe Bill Self at Kansas. But a guy who is seemingly always left out of the best-in-the-country conversation is Florida's Billy Donovan. Forget being among the best coaches in America right now; he belongs on the list of the best ever.

"He's a Hall of Famer,'' ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said. "There is no doubt in my mind. When we look at coaches who are in the Hall of Fame already who are coaching today, I say why not Billy Donovan?"

Exactly. Why not?

Donovan has won two national championships. He has been to the Final Four three times and has taken the Gators to the Elite Eight each of the past three years.

He just won his sixth SEC regular-season title, and his Gators are ranked first in the country. A third national title would put him in rare air.

All these accolades and achievements for a man so young. Donovan is only 48. Most of those other greats — Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Pitino and Williams — are in their 60s. Izzo is 59. Self is 51.

"Billy has done a phenomenal job," Vitale said. "He has the special gift that you cannot teach: communicator. He communicates with warmth. Not with anger. Not with that tough guy (attitude) of 'It's my way or it's not going to happen.' He doesn't have that approach. He has discipline, but he does it in a very kind way."

This year's coach of the year award will probably go to Wichita State's Gregg Marshall or Arizona's Sean Miller or maybe even Boeheim. Donovan likely will be overlooked. As always.

But, as always, when you sit down and study what he has done, you realize he is one of the best in the country. Maybe even the best at the moment.

Funniest line

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was asked what he thought about the job Billy Donovan was doing at Florida. Vitale said, "Billy Donovan has really built the basketball program to make it a basketball school.

"And then a guy sends me a tweet that says, 'You're wrong, Dickie V, you're wrong. The guy that has made Florida a basketball school is (football coach Will) Muschamp."

New hangout

Speaking of Dickie V, the ESPN broadcaster has a new Lakewood Ranch breakfast hangout in Manatee County. For years Vitale has been known to hang out each morning at the Broken Egg. But the Broken Egg shut down and will open soon under new ownership. Vitale's new spot is the First Watch, which is next to his old hangout, the Bradenton Herald says.

Media notes

It appears Fox has found a replacement for lead baseball analyst Tim McCarver, who retired after last year's World Series. Actually, two men will replace him. Harold Reynolds, with MLB Network since 2009, and Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci will join Joe Buck in the booth.

I was a tad surprised CBS went with two broadcasting rookies, retired NFL players Tony Gonzalez and Bart Scott, to replace Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino on its NFL Today pregame show. Though it's promising that Scott says he won't be afraid to criticize. The former linebacker told USA Today: "I've got big shoulders, man. I can handle it. If anybody decides to call me out on it, I'll be able to back it up, because at the end of the day, the film doesn't lie. I'm not afraid of anybody. Nobody's going to kick my (rear end). I don't mind saying how it is, and if you play well, I'll also tell people how you play well."

Another female has left ESPN. Reporter Colleen Dominguez is going to Fox Sports 1. Apparently ESPN did not renew her contract.

Hmm, interesting: NHL Network's Kevin Weekes, a former Lightning goalie, suggested to WDAE's Steve Duemig last week that perhaps Marty St. Louis' issues with GM Steve Yzerman run a bit deeper than the Olympic snub.

Three things that popped into my head

1. If I were the Bucs and any of the top three quarterbacks in the draft — Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater — is available, I'm taking one with the seventh pick.

2. One Las Vegas joint has the Rays' over/under number of wins at 88 1/2. My initial instinct is to take the under.

3. You don't realize how much Valtteri Filppula means to the Lightning until he's out of the lineup.

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