Fresh off perhaps his finest season of coaching, Billy Donovan has been named the best coach in college basketball by ESPN.
Eamonn Brennan sums up Donovan's magic act of making 2013-14 Florida into a juggernaut rather succinctly here:
Disappointing finish or not, 2013-14 was Donovan's master class. In October, the Gators were beset by injuries, illnesses and personnel problems. At the start of the season, the Gators had seven scholarship players available to practice. Wilbekin, after nearly being dismissed over the summer, was serving out an indefinite suspension. Eli Carter and Will Yeguete were still recovering from injuries. Michael Frazier II was being tested for mononucleosis. Chris Walker, the Gators' gem recruit, was academically ineligible. The Gators had forward Patric Young, three-year role player Casey Prather, and a whole lot of unknowns.
And then Prather blew up. By December's Jimmy V Classic win over Memphis, the career 3.1 points per game scorer was averaging 18.3, mostly thanks to relentless, angled attacks at the rim. Prather and Young kept Florida humming early. Wilbekin returned, and would come to run the show. Frazier morphed into the nation's best sharpshooting specialist. Dorian Finney-Smith filled a crucial wing-post role.
Within a few months, a team that could have been an abject disaster was instead one of Donovan's best.
It's not like Donovan beat a weak field, either. He takes the top spot ahead of No. 2 John Calipari, whose spectacularly talented Kentucky Wildcats lost to Florida three times in 2013-14, No. 3 Tom Izzo, No. 4 Mike Krzyzewski, and No. 5 Rick Pitino.
We've known that Donovan is incredibly good at his job for quite some time. But it's nice to see the most prominent media outlet in sports agree with what we know.