After a Final Four run in 2014, Florida failed to break .500 last season despite their No. 7 preseason ranking. Billy Donovan bolted for the NBA this week, leaving the Gators one more step behind. After winning two national titles at the collegiate level, Donovan will now coach Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. But now what? Who fills in the head coach position in Gainesville? Florida Athletic Director, Jeremy Foley, will once again have to make a quick decision.
Many would say that Dayton’s head coach, Archie Miller, is the favorable option. Miller is the brother of Arizona’s Sean Miller and has brought the Flyers from the ashes into a competitive tournament team. In his four seasons as head coach, he led Dayton to back-to-back tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight run in 2014 before losing to the Florida Gators.
Miller, however, recently extended his contract with Dayton through 2022, though the terms are not disclosed. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dayton’s basketball program values at $83.7 million, while Florida’s program is only worth $50.2. Could the Gators offer Miller an attractive-enough offer?
My personal favorite to take over this job is Richard Pitino. Son of the great Rick Pitino, Richard has built a great name for himself in recent years. Pitino spent three seasons as an assistant under Donovan at Florida and two seasons under his father at Louisville. He then became the head coach at Florida International for a season before upgrading to Minnesota.
If Foley hires Pitino, he would definitely be taking a gamble. Pitino is just 32 years old and has not reached the NCAA Tournament. However, he has won an NIT Championship and posted an overall .606 winning percentage at Minnesota. Is that a risk the Gators are willing to take?
If Foley is looking for a familiar face, Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey seems to be the answer. Pelphrey spent 10 years in Gainesville under Donovan but also was the head coach at South Alabama and Arkansas for a combined nine seasons. He is also credited as being a great recruiter and well-liked.
Pelphrey’s previous head coaching jobs could be seen as a problem. He poses an overall .542 win percentage with only two tournament appearances. Not to mention, assistant coaches sometimes follow their coaching staff to the NBA, so Florida is unsure if he will even return as an assistant next season.
Gregg Marshall seems like the obvious target for Florida. However, there is no way Marshall is leaving Wichita State. He has turned down offers left and right the previous two years because he loves his Shockers. With a contract extension and returning players for next season, Marshall will not be separated from the Mountain Valley for quite some time.
Other names such as Chris Mack (Xavier), Michael White (Louisiana Tech), and Steve Prohm (Murray State) have been thrown around by other analysts. However, each of those coaches have their reasons to stay with their respective teams.
Foley will need to hire someone not only with experience but the ability to carry on the legacy Donovan left behind. Florida has reached national dominance at times in the last decade and has produced a few NBA stars. With an older team next year, the Gators are in need of a coach who can pick up Donovan’s baton and continue running with this program.