Mixed feelings

It’s not too often that I receive an email from UF President Bernie Machen. In fact, you could say that I’ve never received an email from UF President Bernie Machen. So why now?

No, he’s not asking for money. He’s not announcing an initiative to raise money. Instead, it’s an attempt at group therapy.

Dear Alumni and Friends,

If you’re like me, it was a something of a bittersweet moment when you heard that head basketball Coach Billy Donovan was leaving the Gators to take over as coach of the Orlando Magic.

But bitter certainly isn’t an emotion I feel when I think of Billy. On the contrary, I couldn’t be happier for him and the wonderful opportunity he has to coach in the NBA. When I think of what Billy accomplished for the University of Florida during his 11-season tenure, I’m amazed. A 261-103 record. Nine straight 20-win seasons. Nine consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. Three trips to the NCAA Championship game (2000, 2006, 2007).

And of course, there’s the icing on the cake: A dream team that chalked up the Gators’ first back-to-back NCAA Men’s Division I Championships in 2006 and 2007. Billy will leave as UF’s winningest coach.

Simply put, he did the job and he did it well. For that, we are grateful.
As Billy moves on to other challenges, we will begin the search for his successor (Notice I didn’t say “replacement” – no one will ever replace Billy.) I have complete faith and confidence in Athletic Director Jeremy Foley’s ability to scour the country and find yet another terrifically talented and qualified head basketball coach.

Please join me in wishing Billy Donovan and his family the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Go Gators!


Maybe it’s a little silly that we need consoling when a sports figure moves on to a different job… in the grand scheme of things. Still, I thought it was a nice gesture. Hell, the president didn’t send me an email when Steve Spurrier left (Bernie wasn’t president yet). It has been my suspicion that Billy was more than just a coach that won championships; that he was a coach that actually did what other coaches talk about: connecting with the players on a personal level in order to make them better people, not just better players. I think Billy was probably a genuinely nice guy. I don’t have any good way of proving my assumptions, but I think Bernie’s unsolicited email may be a testament to that effect.

Give the gift of words.