For Billy Donovan, it was the players night


Billy Donovan greets Joakim Noah and Dorian Finney-Smith—Photo Credit: Kassidy Hill

The night was about Billy Donovan. The new name gracing the corners of the court, the pregame buzz of excitement, the tribute videos, the halftime dedication—it was all for Donovan.

Billy Donovan watches his former players honored—Photo Credit: Kassidy Hill

But in this one moment, he stood back on the edge of the court, hands in his pockets and a huge grin split across his face as 28 of his former players convened at mid-court. On a night that was all about Billy Donovan, the under-12 timeout wasn’t and that was a testament to his legacy more than any other praise and adulation.


"I think about from my first year all the way through to my 19th year and just the amount of people that helped me. My name is down there but a lot of people really, really helped me. And that's really to me what's so humbling, that everyone worked so hard,” said Donovan.


The NBA All-Star break allowed Donovan—now the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder—to return to Gainesville for the weekend. It’s also what allowed former players still in the league like Bradley Beal, Chris Chiozza and Mike Frazier to return. The 20+ other guys joined them and sat court side, cheering along with fans as the Gators defeated Vanderbilt 84-66 and giving a standing ovation for the coach that brought them all together.