The majority of Florida’s success in the history of their men’s basketball program can be attributed to Billy Donovan. He has only had two losing seasons in his 18 years at Florida — both of which came in his first two seasons after taking over a tough situation. Since then, the Gators have made the NCAA tournament 14 of the last 16 seasons. Florida also has played in 3 title games and made 4 Final Four appearances during Donovan’s tenure.
The longtime Gator coach has produced quality NBA players as well. Some notable Florida alumni currently in the NBA include Joakim Noah, Al Horford, David Lee, Bradley Beal, Chandler Parsons and Udonis Haslem, among others. Noah won Defensive Player of the Year this season under Tom Thibodeau, but also learned a lot in the college ranks under Donovan.
Hiring a college coach may not be a popular option, but Billy Donovan’s defensive oriented coaching style could be very successful at any level.
Donovan has always put an emphasis on his teams being tenacious on the defensive end. This season the Gators were third in the country in points per game allowed and their opponents shot only 40.2 percent against them. His teams play with the same level of intensity that he uses when he coaches. After being horrendous on that end this season, the Lakers could use a defensive minded coach.
The Orlando Magic agreed on a deal back in 2007 to hire Billy Donovan as their head coach, but shortly after the agreement he began to have second thoughts about leaving Florida. Orlando then agreed to let him out of his contract, allowing him to rejoin the Gators.
The Lakers head coaching job will certainly be appealing to the candidates for the position and could make it much easier for Donovan to make the leap to the NBA this time around.
For the first time in years, Los Angeles will have a substantial amount of salary cap space, which could be used to build the roster to Donovan’s liking. Although the entire field of free agents that will be available this summer is still somewhat unknown, the Lakers cap flexibility will give them a ton of options this summer or in 2015 if they choose to wait for a likely better free agent class. Of course, the city of Los Angeles and the market it possesses has a history of attracting elite talent.
Another thing the Lakers will have this summer is a very high first-round draft pick. As it stands, the Lakers are sixth going into the draft lottery on May 20, with a 21.5 percent chance of moving into the top 3. Unfortunately, they have a 74.4 percent chance of picking sixth or seventh. Mitch Kupchak has stated that trading the draft pick is also a possibility. Either way, it just adds to the list of options available to them this offseason.
Billy Donovan would also be inheriting a highly motivated Kobe Bryant who will still be around for at least the next two seasons. The Black Mamba would certainly make the adjustment period considerably easier for Donovan.
At the age of 48, Donovan, if successful could be the long-term solution the Lakers have been seeking since the departure of Phil Jackson. If the team decides to keep their draft pick this year, Donovan and that pick could grow together and build a great player-coach relationship for several years to come.
Expect to hear a plethora of names come up as possible candidates to be the next Lakers head coach. The amount of immediate success Los Angeles has in these next one to two years is more dependent on the level of talent that Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss bring in to work with. However, if given the correct pieces to work with, Billy Donovan could be a tremendous fit with the Lakers now, and down the road.
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