Donovan's Seen It All in NCAA

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

Billy Donovan came close to a national championship as a player at Providence during the 1980s.

He got even closer as a coach at Florida in 2000.

But he also has experienced heartbreak in the NCAA Tournament, too, especially the past four seasons when his Gators failed to win more than one game in the tournament since reaching the 2000 title game.

That, however, is what March Madness is all about.

"Participating in the tournament as a player, assistant coach and head coach, I've had some unbelievable, high, exhilarating moments," Donovan said Monday as the Gators (23-7) began preparations for Friday's 12:25 p.m. first-round game against Ohio (21-10) in Nashville. "I've also had some very low, depressing moments.

"That's what happens this time of year. That's when you see the joy and the enthusiasm. You've got to be able to handle those low moments that are going to come."

It has certainly been more of the latter for the Gators since they lost to Michigan State in the 2000 title game. In 2001, the Gators fought through injuries to Teddy Dupay, Brent Wright and Justin Hamilton and beat Western Kentucky in the first round before losing to Temple.

In 2002, the Gators were upset by Creighton in double overtime, thanks to a costly turnover on an inbounds play. In 2003, there was a win over Sam Houston State before a physical beating by Michigan State.

Last season was perhaps the most painful and embarrassing. Manhattan, despite a significantly smaller lineup than Florida, pounded the Gators on the boards and won the first-round game by 15 points.

"I think people should not look at our team [not] advancing very far [in recent NCAA Tournaments]," Donovan said. …