The Year of The Bad Back?

Billy Donovan spent SEC Media Days in pain not because he has to deal with the press, but because his back is killing him.

The Florida coach was forced to lie facedown on the nearly 2-hour plane ride Wednesday morning, even after a painkilling shot. More importantly, he's worried about how it will affect his ability physically to coach his team.
"That's my biggest worry, is having to be on my feet for two hours trying to coach," Donovan said. "I see it getting better, but it's at a point where if I sit in a chair for a long period of time, I can't get up. The only thing that really gives me any relief is when I'm lying face-down.
"The mornings are tough just trying to get up and get going. If I get in a chair at work or something I can't stand up straight. It's something I've just got to work through."

While the image of Billy lying on his stomach as he tries to coach Jai Lucas and Nick Calathes through their growing pains is hilarious, it's not practical. (Oh, you think so Doctor?) And with the pain he's in, that means back surgery. And surgery means the very real possibility of Billy missing time.

A top flight coach missing part of a season or all of a season isn't new. The most famous case, and perhaps the worst case in terms of it hurting a team, was when Mike Krzyzewski dipped out of the 1994-95 season with Duke. Back surgery and exhaustion caused Coach K to leave after a 9-3 record and the Dukies never recovered. They went 4-15 the rest of the season and missed the NCAAs.

There was other issues (like no Grant Hill) but it took until 1998 for Duke to the Sweet 16 again, an eternity in Durham. Could that happen to the Gators? A season off a dynasty, a coach laid up in Shands, and a March Madness spent at home?

I can't imagine that. Donovan has always struck me as the person who loves the fight more than the victory. His back may be killing him, but missing out on coaching this club would be even worse. He will be on the sidelines. Even if he's lying on his stomach.

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