Florida Flashback Series: The Oh-Fours, Oh-Six and Oh-Seven
Updated: May 8, 2020
Forever known as the Oh-Fours. And forever known for Oh-Six and Oh-Seven.
BY AINSLEE LEE
One was from the Dominican Republic, another was from Ft. Lauderdale, one hailed from Portland, Tenn., and one claimed to be from Hell’s Kitchen.
When Al Horford’s mother realized that he had potential on the hardwood, she sent him to fertile basketball ground in Michigan to live with his father. Taurean Green spent much of his childhood in Orlando, but claims loyalty to Fort Lauderdale. Corey Brewer has southern roots planted in Tennessee. And Joakim Noah calls Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan home, despite growing up in France.
But come 2004, each of them shared a common residence: Gainesville, Florida.
The four hoop stars entered the world of “Billy Ball” after Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators posted a pedestrian 20-11 record in the 2003-04 season, which included a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament after a loss to the Manhattan Jaspers.
When they arrived on campus, they quickly deemed themselves the “Oh-Fours”.
Despite their diverse backgrounds, the Oh-Fours stuck together like glue. It was always the Oh-Fours, and if they needed a fifth, it was Lee Humphrey.
Anthony Grant, an assistant coach at Florida from 1996-2006, can recall the freshman quartet rushing to his office to let him know that they beat the veteran players on the roster.
“Hey, we just played against the veterans… coach, we beat them. Coach, we beat them two out of three,” Grant remembers hearing, as told by James Bates’ short documentary “Here Come the Gators: The Oh-Fours.”
The sound of a basketball pounding against the floor of the O’Connell Center often interrupted Matt McCall’s midnight homework sessions. The culprits were usually the Oh-Fours.
“Those four guys were in the gym playing two on two as freshmen,” McCall, who was a student manager for the team from 2002-06, said in the documentary. “And they would be battling… That’s kind of when you knew that these guys were a special group.”
Heading into the 2005-06 season, the Oh-Fours’ sophomore season, there were gaping holes in the Gators’ lineup. As a result, expectations were in the basement.
Despite the outside noise, those on the roster were convinced otherwise.
Horford and Noah were riding with Humphrey in his old Jeep on the way to a team function, when at a stoplight, Humphrey told half of the Oh-Fours, “Hey, I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Horford recalls.
It was early in the 2005-06 season, at a preseason tournament, when Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples quickly realized the team’s high ceiling.
“I remember watching them warm up,” Staples said. “And just thought… these guys are maybe a little different.”
As Donovan put it, if the Gators could have five guys scoring in double figures, they’d be alright.
“Those box scores were amazing,” Staples said. “It didn’t matter who was a star. Nobody cared… they just wanted to win.”
The Oh-Fours and the Gators jumped out to a 17-win start to their sophomore season -- marking the best start in program history.
After a 24-6 regular season finish, Donovan and the Gators ran away with SEC Tournament before securing a three seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In Minneapolis, the Gators stormed past South Alabama and UW-Milwaukee by a combined 48 points, before squaring off against Georgetown.
“In the tournament, it was amazing how easy it seemed for them,” Staples said. “The one game that they really got pushed was in the Sweet Sixteen against Georgetown.”
After proving to be three points better than the Hoyas, the Oh-Fours and the Gators were slated to take on Villanova, a No. 1 seed who eliminated Florida from the tournament a season prior.
The Wildcats proved to be no match for the streaking Gators, who secured their ninth straight win with a 75-62 victory, sending them to the Final Four.
Standing between Florida and a National Title appearance was George Mason, the “Cinderella Story” of the tournament.
“And the clock is about to strike midnight on Cinderella,” Mick Hubert, the voice of the Florida Gators, said as the buzzer sounded, capping off a 73-58 Final Four win.
UCLA was next. And the program’s first National Championship was hanging in the balance.
As the buzzer sounded, confetti fell from the rafters and Joakim Noah chomped at the Florida fans that had made the historic trip to Indianapolis.
Sixteen points separated the Gators from the Bruins as Donovan, the Oh-Fours and company marched to a 73-57 victory.
Back in Gainesville, with new hardware to add to the trophy case, the Gators celebrated in the O’Connell Center. And as Staples remembers, there was a “buzz in the building that something was up.”
Four of the country’s finest college basketball players, who were now eligible for the NBA Draft, would each have a chance at the microphone.
“It’s been a great two years here for me, and Jo, and Corey,” Horford began. “I feel like we’ve accomplished everything we needed to.”
Horford and his trio of brothers had done everything they had needed to. You play college basketball to win championships. The Oh-Fours had done that.
“Hold on, here,” Noah said, snatching the mic. “What do you guys want us to do?”
The O’Dome erupted.
Prior to the Elite Eight game, Noah asked Horford a similar question.
“I’m having too much fun here,” Horford told Noah, who had asked if he was eyeing the NBA Draft. “I think I’m going to stay.”
Noah, Horford and Brewer were widely expected to be top-10 draft picks.
When Brewer, whose father was ailing with diabetes, decided to return for his junior season, the rest of the Oh-Four quartet followed suit.
“So you want us to play here next year?,” Noah asked the O’Dome crowd. “Well let it be done then.”
From that point on, the Oh-Fours had taken a “football school” and spun it on its axis.
Though across the street, The Swamp was graced with National-Championship-talent, faces of the hardwood were also recognized on Saturdays.
You know you’re successful and you’ve accomplished a big thing around Florida if during football season, all the fans recognize you and embrace you and congratulate you.
Despite the paparazzi, Donovan, the Oh-Fours and the rest of Florida’s roster knew that there was still work to be done.
Now, instead of expectations being in the basement, like the year prior, a target was painted on the team’s back.
“Now you’re really under a microscope,” Donovan said. “We’re going to play some good games. We’re going to play some bad games. It’s a long season.”
The 2006-07 season was similar to 2005-06. There was a hot start, a slump at the end of the regular season and another SEC Tournament title.
This time, the Gators held the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional. And this time, Florida’s route to the Final Four was like a hot knife cutting through butter.
The Gators beat Jackson State, Purdue, Butler and Oregon by a combined 66 points, before sliding to the championship with a 10-point win over UCLA.
A matchup with Ohio State in the championship game was likely the greatest test for Florida. But even so, the Buckeyes found themselves on the short end of the stick.
The Gators did it. Billy Donovan did it. The Oh-Fours did it.
They say winning back-to-back national championships is hard. The Oh-Fours fooled everyone.
They came together, by way of three different states and two different countries.
They converged in Gainesville.
And they left together.
Forever known as the Oh-Fours. And forever known for Oh-Six and Oh-Seven.