GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida coach Billy Donovan is treating
his revamped staff like an overhauled roster. He's trying to build
bonds, develop chemistry and create teamwork.
If it works, the Gators could stay atop the Southeastern
Conference and make another deep run in the NCAA tournament next
"When you have three people leave at one time, you're really
starting over," Donovan said Tuesday as he introduced his new, yet
somewhat familiar, staff.
Donovan lost associate head coach Larry Shyatt to Wyoming in
March, then had Richard Pitino leave to become associate coach
under his father, Rick, at Louisville and had Rob Lanier take a
similar position at Texas.
Donovan filled the spots with close friend and former Arkansas
coach John Pelphrey, respected colleague and former St. John's
coach Norm Roberts, and former Florida assistant Matt McCall.
"I've had different coaches leave throughout the course of my
time here at Florida, but when you have three people leave on one
staff at one time, that's certainly unique and very, very
different," Donovan said.
There certainly have been challenges, starting with Pelphrey and
Roberts still having their families living out of state. And with
the summer recruiting season about two months away, there has been
little time for the new staff to get acquainted with recruits,
their families, high school staffs and those all-important AAU
"It's no different than a team," Donovan said. "You try to
create a level of chemistry inside your staff. When John was here
and (Alabama coach) Anthony (Grant) was here and (Central Florida
coach) Donnie Jones was here, it was not by mistake that we had
really, really good teams. Our staff reflected what a team was all
Donovan said he expects similar results with Pelphrey, Roberts
"As a coaching staff you're always looking to make your players
better, but a lot of times inside your staff, you can display a lot
of chemistry and teamwork," Donovan said. "That's what we've
talked about a lot."
Pelphrey, who served six years (1996-2002) as an assistant under
Donovan, is returning to Florida after spending the past nine
seasons at South Alabama (2002-07) and Arkansas (2007-11). He was
fired last month after posting a 69-59 record with the Razorbacks.
Pelphrey said he has a lot more knowledge now than he did when
he left Gainesville in 2002.
"I have a different understanding," he said. "I see things
completely different than I did the first time around, not that the
way that I saw it the first time around was wrong because there was
a level of success. But as you get older you gain experiences and
have a chance to be exposed to the good and to the bad. Those are
valuable things. Those are weapons in your arsenal."
Roberts, a 1987 graduate of Queens College in New York City,
spent six seasons at St. John's before he was fired in 2010. He was
81-101 and never made the NCAA tournament. He spent last season
working as a television commentator for the Big East Network.
Roberts also served as an assistant under Kansas coach Bill Self
at four different schools. He was associate head coach at Kansas
(2003-04) and an assistant at Illinois (2000-03), Tulsa (1997-2000)
and Oral Roberts (1995-97).
Like Pelphrey, he believes his head-coaching experience will
serve Florida well.
"Coming as head coaches, you understand the urgency, you
understand the importance, you understand the little things and how
important those things are," Roberts said. "The same things coach
Donovan's going to be preaching to us we've already preached to our
McCall originally joined Donovan's staff as a student manager in
2001. He became head manager the following year and later accepted
a position as Florida's director of basketball operations, which he
held for two seasons (2006-08). He spent the last three as an
assistant at Florida Atlantic.
Now, McCall, Pelphrey, Roberts and Donovan are trying to fit
together -- and fast.
"We all just want to play our role to be the best we can be,
and here, you know if you're the best you can be, then you can win
it all," Pelphrey said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)