Florida Basketball: Q&A with Rookie Gators coach Todd Golden

by John Fanta
FOX Sports activities Faculty basketball author

Todd Golden, at 37, is taken into account one of many quickest rising coaches in faculty basketball.

He went from assistant coach in San Francisco to taking up the Dons program in 2019, to a training place in Florida.

His fast ascent to the Securities and Alternate Fee got here after the announcement on Sunday that former coach Mike White could be leaving Gainesville to take up the job in rival Georgia.

This led to the beginning of a head coach seek for athletic director Scott Stricklin, one thing that had not been a typical apply for Florida basketball in latest historical past, largely attributable to Billy Donovan. Donovan was solely 31 years outdated when the Gators appointed him head coach in 1996, and after 20 years marked by nationwide titles in 2006 and 2007, the Florida program was modified.

Whereas White led the Gators to the NCAA Championship in 4 of six qualifying seasons (the 2020 NCAA Championship has been cancelled), together with the Elite Eight’s journey in 2017, he may by no means tackle Donovan.

The identical excessive degree of expectations is in place for Gold, who made waves in March by main San Francisco to its first NCAA berth since 1998. Between success at a college that does not have the assets of league opponents Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s or BYU, an analytically pushed mindset guides him in taking Determination, Golden has the make-up to be a number one determine within the sport. He’s a forward-thinking younger man who has confirmed his skill to win at a tough place.

[SEC basketball: Kentucky, Arkansas lead a rising league]

As one in all six new head coaches within the Southeast Convention, the Arizona native is getting into the league throughout a exceptional time, because the fast rise of packages like Arkansas and Alabama has put athletic administrators in motion to seek out their subsequent transformative chief.

We caught up with Golden this week for a Q&A from FOX Faculty Hoops.

How have been your early days and weeks working in Gainesville?

I got here down right here in late March and after the primary week or so, [director of basketball strategy and analytics] Jonathan Saphir got here down right here. then, [assistant coach] Kevin Hurd hostel. We have been all on the Residence Inn. We needed one thing a bit extra homey, and a bit extra inviting. I labored with administration and requested if we may safe Airbnb. We discovered a home only a quarter mile from the coaching facility, so we packed up from the Residence Inn and the three of us headed house. It ended up being a really productive transfer.

Did you are feeling such as you’re again in faculty?

[Laughter.] To some extent. We have been three guys residing for pizza. Our households aren’t right here but. It was a good time, and it jogged my memory of my youthful days in Saint Mary (Golden Mom). I had a full dimension arduous mattress which was tremendous.

Take me by way of a day at work, then your nights at house.

Mainly, we have been spending a day within the workplace. Subsequent, we’ll return to Airbnb and uncover some sort of takeout choice for dinner. We spend the nights passing by way of the switch gate. Simply taking a look at it from prime to backside to see who’s there. Whoever we have been concerned about, we would have a look at Synergy and watch plenty of motion pictures about her. It was mainly a rinse and repetition of going by way of the gate, taking a look at KenPom and testing Torvik pages. It is really how we recruited Trey Bonham (VMI Switch). We have been watching Synergy at 11:30 one evening. After I noticed him on tape, I mentioned, “Let’s speak to him on the telephone very first thing tomorrow.” These late-night sittings in the lounge positive paid off. We lived in Airbnb for a few month, then moved in with my household in Gainesville on the finish of April.

So, whereas your Fortnite or NBA 2K online game classes have been happening in a neighborhood home, you have been nonetheless awake…however trying critically at analytics?

That is precisely proper, in reality this can be a good picture with a 12:13 am timestamp! It is traditional.

Florida assistant coach Kevin Hovede (on the couch) and Director of Basketball Technique and Analytics Jonathan Safeer watch the film Late Evening on Airbnb. (Photograph courtesy of Todd Golden)

So what was happening behind the scenes once I bought this job?

I felt good concerning the alternative I had in Florida earlier than my NCAA first-round match in opposition to Murray State in Indianapolis. Clearly we misplaced Thursday evening and Friday morning after the sport, Scott [Stricklin] and me collectively.

Was Stricklin in Indianapolis watching you practice for the championship sport?

Sure, and he was completely understanding and respectful, and he stored his distance from our San Francisco staff. He was nice to cope with all through the method and to grasp that we had a job to do to organize our children.

What occurred Friday morning?

He provided me the job, and the very first thing I did was attain out to my dad and mom. I informed them this was occurring earlier than they bought again on the flight again house to Phoenix [from Indianapolis]. They have been shocked, however they have been very comfortable for me. I let a few of my good buddies find out about it, too. Navigation was powerful, as a result of all of it occurred earlier than a four-hour cross-country flight to San Francisco with the staff. The information broke whereas we have been within the air, which was no shock, and I spoke to my staff. Clearly, you may’t management issues typically with how this information spreads. That is how issues went for us, and I used to be capable of inform my closest folks the information earlier than that.

When you get the job, who’s the one that communicates with you essentially the most?

Billy Donovan. It was very cool. I bought the job on Friday morning, and Billy talked to me on Saturday. It was fantastic. I informed him how a lot I really like guiding him. He mentioned, “Todd, I am going to assist you as a lot or as little as you need. I do not need you to really feel like it’s important to take heed to me.” We talked quite a bit, got here right down to Gainesville just a few weeks later and sat for just a few hours. It is actually vital for Billy to be dedicated to our program. He is prepared to assist us, and I would like him to be snug being round us when he will be there. He has set a typical right here that we wish to attempt to comply with.

Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators celebrates chopping the online after the SEC Championship on March 16, 2014 in Atlanta. (Photograph by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Photographs)

What’s the most effective recommendation Billy gave you?

You simply should be your self. He informed me, “Do not attempt to be me. Do not attempt to be somebody you were not in San Francisco.” He mentioned I simply wanted to proceed being the one I used to be on this path to get the prospect. This caught with me.

It is clearly an enormous leap in shifting from a not-so-successful WCC college to Florida. What’s the key to this transition?

Properly, once I take into consideration what we did in San Francisco, we had seven worldwide children and we introduced 5 children by way of the transit gate. Whereas USF and Florida are two very completely different locations, it was extra of a course of to leads to San Francisco. I feel we will convey comparable processes to Florida and make it greater and higher in such a supportive program. Look, on the Securities and Alternate Fee, we all know now we have to face Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and others. However on the WCC, we competed with packages with a funds 4 to 5 occasions higher than what we had. We consider that if we will win in that surroundings, it would now be a bonus for us within the vacation spot college. Florida children wish to play right here. East Coast children wish to be right here. We wish to convey the most effective.

By way of constructing your record, one of many huge issues I used to be capable of do was preserve the All-SEC choose for 2 occasions. Colin Castleton for the fifth season. How did this occur?

That is fairly the story. After I bought the job on Friday, I got here out right here on Monday to handle the staff. I texted him that evening and he was very respectful. We really met head to head in Orlando as a result of he was watching an ex-teammate. He mentioned, “Coach, I recognize your concern, however I will not be again.” He was a burdened man. We have been like “S—.” However we did not end speaking to him that means. We continued the conversations, and I took a really supportive method with him. I informed him, “Should you’re decided to not, let me assist you discover a good agent and get coaching with groups.” I cannot persuade or deceive him to return. He needed to come to this realization on his personal, which he did. That swing at his choice and retention gave Colin confidence in our skill to compete in 12 months one.

This can be a story. I additionally introduced 4 transfers, together with the earlier Saint Bonaventure star Kyle Lofton. What does this system supply?

Cale is an distinctive chief. He is extremely distinctive, he is one of many solely guys I’ve ever been round who did not should say something and solely guys revered him. His teammates can depend on him. He actually allow us to practice him. I additionally spoke to him with Jamari Boya, our star guard in San Francisco final 12 months. Kyle talked quite a bit with Jamari to get a greater really feel for me and the way I am working. To have somebody like Kyle takes plenty of stress on our first 12 months workers.

What are your expectations to your first season?

For us, a very powerful factor once we bought right here was protecting a perspective of alternative. It is about constructing a superb basis for this system. Now, we’re not simply comfortable within the first 12 months. It is about laying a stable basis with tremendous competitors within the first 12 months. Kyle [Lofton] and Colin [Castleton] Give us a excessive ground. If the opposite items can maintain it collectively, that may outline our roof. I feel our winger gamers, Alex [Fudge]Will [Richard] and Kowacie [Reeves] All of them have the potential to be actually good gamers. They’re the kinds of gamers that may actually affect the sport in a wide range of methods for us. All of our wings have some NBA potential. We now have to maintain getting that out of them.

If you weren’t concerned in basketball, what would you do?

I’ll golf day by day whereas buying and selling shares and bitcoin. I’ve at all times been extra interested in numbers than to language arts, English, or studying comprehension. Arithmetic is a extra snug discipline for me (Laughter). I’ve simply been interested in the inventory market, and I would like to participate in day buying and selling.

You possibly can choose the mind of any present or former faculty coach. who is that this?

The man I really like hanging out with is Brad Stevens. Having a program like Butler for consecutive Nationwide Championship matches (2010, 2011) is loopy. I liked what he did teaching the Celtics, too. (I) would love to choose his mind.

Favourite basketball film?

Previous UTEP Crew Episode, “The Street to Glory”. That is my favorite.

How do you construct this new period of basketball in Florida into the faculty group?

The good factor is that there’s really an ideal help tradition right here in Gainesville. It makes it an ideal place. College students, alumni and donors are very excited. I wish to exit to campus and speak to our college students. We might be seeking to attain completely different locations in the neighborhood as properly. When this chance got here up, it wasn’t even an concept for me due to the historical past and traditions of this program. What I did not understand was that Florida was one of many prime 5 public educational establishments within the nation. I knew the excessive degree of soccer and basketball, however did not understand how a lot it translated to different sports activities. Our observe program gained each the boys’s and ladies’s nationwide championships this previous spring. Ben Shelton gained the boys’s singles tennis title. Success continues in all sports activities. It isn’t simply males’s basketball that wins. It is the expectation right here, and it is one thing I am proud to be part of.

John Fanta is a Nationwide Faculty Basketball announcer and author for FOX Sports activities. It covers sports activities in a wide range of capacities, from invoking video games on FS1 to serving as the principle host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Area of 68 Media Community. Comply with him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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