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

by John Fanta
FOX Sports College basketball writer

Todd Golden, 36, is one of the fastest rising coaches in college basketball.

Went from assistant coach in San Francisco To take over the Dons program in 2019, to the main training position in Florida.

His rapid ascent to the Securities and Exchange Commission came after the announcement on Sunday that former coach Mike White would be leaving Gainesville to take on the job in the contender. Georgia.

This led to the start of a head coach search for athletic director Scott Stricklin, something that had not been a common practice for Florida basketball in recent history, mostly due to Billy Donovan. Donovan was only 31 when the Gators appointed him head coach in 1996, and after a two-decade tour that included national titles in 2006 and 2007, the Florida program was changed.

While White led the Gators to the NCAA Championship in four of six qualifying seasons (the 2020 NCAA Championship has been cancelled), including the Elite Eight’s trip in 2017, he could never take on Donovan.

That high level of expectation is there for Gold, who made waves in March by leading San Francisco to its first NCAA berth since 1998. Between success at a school without the resources of league opponents GonzagaAnd the Saint Mary’s or BYU, and an analytically driven mindset that guides him in his decision making, Golden has the make-up to be a leading figure in the sport. He is a forward-thinking young man who has proven his ability to win at a difficult place.

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

As one of six new head coaches in the Southeastern Conference, the Arizona native enters the league during a great time, as programs are rising rapidly like Arkansas And the Alabama Push sports directors into action to find their next transformational leader.

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

How were your early days and weeks working in Gainesville?

Came here in late March and after the first week or so, [director of basketball strategy and analytics] Jonathan Saphir came down here. then, [assistant coach] Kevin Hurd hostel. We were all at the Residence Inn. We wanted something a little more homey, and a little more inviting. I worked with management and asked if we could secure Airbnb. We found a house just a quarter mile from the training facility, so we packed up from the Residence Inn and the three of us headed home. It ended up being a very productive move.

Did you feel like you’re back in college?

[Laughter.] To some extent. We were three guys living for pizza. Our families are not here yet. It was a great time, and it reminded me of my younger days in Saint Mary (Golden Mother). I had a full size hard bed which was fine.

Take me through a day at work, then your nights at home.

Basically, we were spending a day in the office. Next, we’ll go back to Airbnb and discover some kind of takeout option for dinner. We spend the nights passing through the transfer gate. Just looking at it from top to bottom to see who’s there. Whoever we were interested in, we’d look at Synergy and watch a lot of movies about her. It was basically just rinsing and repeating going through the gate, looking at kenbaum and check them torvik pages. It’s actually how we recruit Tree Bonham (VMI Transfer). We were watching Synergy at 11:30 one night. When I saw him on tape, I said, “Let’s talk to him on the phone first thing tomorrow.” Those late-night sittings in the living room sure paid off. We lived in Airbnb for about a month, then moved in with my family in Gainesville at the end of April.

So, while your Fortnite or NBA 2K video game sessions were taking place in a neighborhood house, you were still awake…but looking seriously at analytics?

That’s exactly right, in fact this is a good photo with a 12:13 am timestamp! It is classic.

Florida assistant coach Kevin Hovede (on the sofa) and Director of Basketball Strategy and Analytics Jonathan Safeer watch the movie Late Night on Airbnb. (Photo courtesy of Todd Golden)

So what was going on behind the scenes when I got this job?

I felt good about the opportunity I had in Florida before playing our NCAA First Round match against us Murray State in Indianapolis. Obviously we lost Thursday night and Friday morning after the match, Scott [Stricklin] and me together.

Was Stricklin in Indianapolis watching you train for the championship game?

Yes, and he was totally understanding and respectful, and he kept his distance from our San Francisco team. He was great to deal with throughout the process and he knew we had a job to do to prepare our kids.

What happened Friday morning?

He offered me the job, and the first thing I did was reach out to my parents. I told them this was happening before they got back on the flight back home to Phoenix [from Indianapolis]. They were shocked, but they were very happy for me. I let some of my good buddies know about it, too. The sailing was tough, because it all happened before a four-hour cross-country flight to San Francisco with the team. The news broke while we were in the air, which was no surprise, and I spoke to my team. Obviously, you can’t control things sometimes with how this news spreads. That’s how things went for us, and I was able to tell my closest people the news before that.

Once you get the job, who is the person who communicates with you the most?

Billy Donovan. It was very cool. I got the job on Friday morning, and Billy talked to me on Saturday. It was wonderful. I told him how much I love guiding him. He said, “Todd, I’ll help you as much or as little as you want. I don’t want you to feel like you have to listen to me.” We talked a lot, came down to Gainesville a few weeks later and sat for a few hours. It’s really important for Billy to be committed to our program. He’s willing to help us, and I want him to be comfortable being around us when he can get in. He has set a standard here that we want to try to follow.

Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators celebrates cutting the net after the SEC Championship on March 16, 2014 in Atlanta. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

What’s the best advice Billy gave you?

You just have to be yourself. He told me, “Don’t try to be me. Don’t try to be someone you weren’t in San Francisco.” He said I just needed to continue being the one I was on this path to get the chance. This stuck with me.

It’s clearly a huge leap in moving from a not-so-successful WCC school to Florida. What is the key to this transition?

Well, when I think about what we did in San Francisco, we had seven international kids and we brought five kids through the transit gate. While USF and Florida are two very different places, it was more of a process to results in San Francisco. I think we can bring similar processes to Florida and make it bigger and better in such a supportive program. Look, at the SEC, we know we have to face it KentuckyArkansas, Alabama, AuburnAnd the Tennessee and others. But at the WCC, we competed with programs with a budget four to five times greater than what we had. We believe that if we can win in that environment, it will now be an advantage for us in the destination school. Florida kids want to play here. East Coast kids want to be here. We want to bring the best.

In terms of building your list, one of the big things I was able to do was keep the All-SEC pick for two times. Colin Castleton for the fifth season. How did this happen?

This is quite the story. After I got the job on Friday, I came out here on Monday to address the team. I texted him that night and he was very respectful. We actually met face to face in Orlando because he was watching an ex-teammate. He said, “Coach, I appreciate your concern, but I won’t be back.” He was an educated man. We were like “S—.” But we didn’t finish talking to him that way. We continued the conversations, and I took a very supportive approach with him. I told him, “If you’re determined not to, let me help you find a good agent and get training with teams.” I will not persuade or deceive him to return. He had to come to this realization on his own, which he did. That swing at his decision and retention gave Colin confidence in our ability to compete in year one.

This is some story. I also brought four transfers, including the previous Saint Bonaventure star Kyle Lofton. What does the program offer?

Cale is an exceptional leader. He’s incredibly unique, he’s one of the only guys I’ve ever been around who didn’t have to say anything and only guys respected him. His teammates can count on him. He really let us train him. As I talked to him Jamari Bouya’We starred in San Francisco last year. Kyle talked a lot with Jamari to get a better feel for me and how I’m working. To have someone like Kyle takes a lot of pressure on our first year staff.

What are your expectations for your first season?

For us, the most important thing when we got here was keeping a perspective of opportunity. It’s about building a good foundation for the program. Now, we’re not just happy in the first year. It’s about laying a solid foundation with super competition in the first year. Kyle [Lofton] and Colin [Castleton] Give us a high floor. If the other pieces could assemble it, that would define our ceiling. I think our winger players, Alex [Fudge]And the Will [Richard] And the Kwasi [Reeves] They all have the potential to be really good players. They are the types of players that can really influence the game in a variety of ways for us. All our wings have each other NBA Ability. We have to keep getting that out of them.

If you were not involved in basketball, what would you do?

I will golf every day while trading stocks and bitcoin. I’ve always been more attracted to numbers than to language arts, English, or reading comprehension. Mathematics is a more comfortable field for me (Laughter). I’ve just been attracted to the stock market, and I’d like to take part in day trading.

You can pick the mind of any current or former college coach. who is this?

The guy I love hanging out with is Brad Stevens. Get a program like butler To consecutive National Championship matches (2010, 2011) is crazy. I loved what he did with training Celtics, very. (I) would love to pick his brain.

Favorite basketball movie?

The one who talks about the old UTEP Glory Road team. This is my favourite.

How do you build this new era of basketball in Florida into the college community?

The great thing is that there is actually a great support culture here in Gainesville. It makes it a great place. Students, alumni and donors are very excited. I want to go out to campus and talk to our students. We will be looking to reach different places in the community as well. When this opportunity came up, it wasn’t even an idea for me because of the history and traditions of this program. What I didn’t realize was that Florida was one of the top five public academic institutions in the country. I knew about the high level football and basketball, but didn’t realize how much it translated to other sports. Our track program won both the men’s and women’s national championships this past spring. Ben Shelton won the men’s singles tennis title. Success continues in all sports. It’s not just men’s basketball that wins. It’s the expectation here, and it’s something I’m proud to be a part of.

John Fanta is a National College Basketball announcer and writer for FOX Sports. It covers sports in a variety of capacities, from invoking games on FS1 to serving as the main host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

Get more from College Basketball Follow your favorites for information about games, news, and more.

Leave a Comment