GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn't overly critical of his team on Monday, two days after losing to Georgia, a team that hadn't won a game since Dec.31. The message: These guys are trying hard.
"I kind of evaluate it in: Are they trying the best they can? Are they trying to give me everything they have?" Donovan said. "There is no question there are some limitations there but I do feel like those guys are trying to do what we’re asking them to do. There are certain things maybe inside the game that they do struggle with, that’s challenging with them, but I really do not have a problem with their effort."
Florida (19-6, 6-4) has lost two straight and hosts Alabama (13-11, 3-7) on Wednesday.
Losing to a team as bad as Georgia is certainly a good time for reflection. Donovan did a lot of that during his Monday press conference.
"I had a conversation about this the other day with Urban [Meyer]," Donovan said. "It is all so fragile in a lot of ways -- the highlights of things when things are really, really incredible and then, maybe, when you’ve got some challenges. When I look at my time here, I probably have grown more as a person and coach through the challenging parts than when things were great."
There's a rumor going around the SEC that Florida has a soft team this year. Donovan reminded everyone on Monday that Florida doesn't make a point to recruit soft players. "We won two national chamionships with three monsters up front and a 6-8 small forward." Sigh...
Donovan also reminded everyone that when he returned to Florida after the second championship (turning down the NBA in the process) that Florida basketball was "starting from scratch."
"One of the things that I looked at and knew going into last year and the opportunity that I had after 2007 was the challenge of taking on — just knowing there was going to be a drastic drop off," Donovan said. "A drastic drop off in talent, a drastic drop off in experience and just a drastic drop off of just having a lot of guys coming in that were going to be thrust into situations with no level of leadership above them and having to go through it and figure it out.
"I’m actually in a certain way — and I know because the level we’ve been at people don’t maybe have a tendency of looking at it this way — but the reality is I think our team totally overachieved last year."
Last year, Florida had Maurice Speights, who left for the NBA after his sophomore season. Donovan thought Speights was coming back.
"I don’t think when the season started last year that Maurice Speights would be gone," Donovan said. "Our frontcourt complexion looks totally different if you now have Maurice, Alex [Tyus] and Dan [Werner]. At the time when we signed some of these guys there is no question that the role they’re in right now is a different role than what we had envisioned when we signed them."
Everyone is always critizing Dan Werner for being Dan Werner. It's not Dan's fault, says Donovan.
"I think Dan [Werner] has had a tougher time shooting the basketball since SEC play has started. That would help," Donovan said. "I don’t think it’s the situation with us being undersized has anything to do with those guys at all as players. We felt like Dan was going to be a great complement but the one thing you can never forecast is guys leaving early ... It’s tough for Dan to lineup 30 minutes a night and expect him to go grab 10-12 rebounds. Inside of what his ability is, I think he’s doing all the things he can possibly do. "
Don't you get it, people. These guys are trying the best they can. What more can you ask for?