GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Billy Donovan has stepped down as head coach of the Florida men’s basketball team to take the same position with the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, director of athletics Jeremy Foley announced Thursday.
Donovan leaves Florida after 19 seasons leading the men’s basketball program to unprecedented levels of success, winning two national championships, reaching four Final Fours and claiming six SEC titles, posting a 467-186 (.715) record with the Gators.
“While we are certainly extremely sad to see Billy go, the primary feeling I have is one of gratitude for what he has done here at Florida,” Foley said.
“Billy and Florida basketball have been synonymous for a long time now, and our program would not have reached the heights it has without him. The legacy he leaves here is one of personal and professional excellence, and we wish him, Christine and the Donovan family continued success and happiness as they make this move. There is no better person than Billy Donovan. He will truly be missed.”
“I want to thank Jeremy Foley, the players, coaches and staff I’ve had the chance to work with during my time at Florida,” Donovan said.
“The administrative support and stability has been unbelievable here, and it is an incredibly difficult decision to leave that. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation.”
Donovan finishes his tenure at Florida with more wins at the helm of an SEC program (467) than anyone other than Adolph Rupp, while his 35 NCAA Tournament wins rank at the top of SEC coaches.
His win total is more than twice that of any other coach in Florida history.
The Gators’ back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007 match Duke's (1991 and 1992) as the only teams to bring home consecutive titles since John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty.
With those championships under his belt at 41 years of age, Donovan became the third-youngest coach to win multiple championships. Bob Knight (Indiana) and Phil Woolpert (San Francisco), both reached the milestone at 40.
Donovan also became the second person to reach the Final Four as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach (Dick Harp).
Prior to Donovan’s hiring, Florida had one SEC title in 77 seasons of play. He led the Gators to six in his 19 seasons, including three during his final five seasons in Gainesville. All four of Florida’s SEC Tournament championships in program history also came under Donovan’s leadership.
The Gators ascended to No. 1 in the polls for the first time on Feb. 3, 2003, and would reach the top spot in four different seasons (not including 2005-06, in which UF was only No. 1 in the postseason poll), most recently during the team’s historic 30-game winning streak in 2013-14.
This past season, Donovan became the second coach in men’s college basketball history to reach 500 Division I wins before his 50th birthday, doing so sooner than anyone but Knight.
“Like we have with other recent searches, we will have an internal working group that will identify candidates to be our next head coach,” Foley said.
“I don’t intend to put a timeline on our hire, but we will work hard to have the right person in place over the coming weeks.”
“Billy’s legacy at the University of Florida is nothing short of stellar," said UF President Dr. Fuchs. “The wins and championships were great, but perhaps even more important, he took a personal interest in his student-athletes and pushed them to be their best in the classroom and in life.
"The entire Gator Nation is grateful for his nearly 20 years of leadership, and we wish him the very best of luck in his new adventure.”