GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan is rebuilding his staff with a close friend and a longtime colleague.
Donovan hired former Arkansas coach John Pelphrey and former St. John's coach Norm Roberts as assistants Tuesday. They replace associate head coach Larry Shyatt, who took the head job at Wyoming last month, and assistants Rob Lanier and Richard Pitino.
Donovan said Lanier and Pitino left for opportunities to become head coaches in waiting at Texas and Louisville, respectively. Texas officials confirmed Lanier's hiring, but said he was not offered anything more than an assistant position. Louisville coach Rick Pitino declined comment on his son's status.
Lanier, a former head coach at Sienna College, served as an assistant coach at Texas between 1999 and 2001. His wife, a doctor, also did her residency in Austin.
"Texas has done this before in football," Donovan said. "There's a strong possibility -- I don't know all the details -- that he could be possibly be coach in waiting at Texas. They've talked about that.
"An opportunity to possibly be the head coach at Texas someday was an opportunity Rob really felt like he needed to take."
|Norm Roberts spent six seasons as the head coach at St. John's before being fired last year. (Getty Images)|
"Richard's situation, for him to be the associate head coach and possibly the head coach at Louisville, is an incredible opportunity," Donovan said.
Donovan learned about his latest staff departures over a three-day span beginning last week.
With the recruiting period starting Friday, Donovan had to move quickly to fill the voids. So he went with people he knows, one he knows as well as anyone.
Pelphrey, who served six years (1996-2002) as an assistant under Donovan, is returning to Florida after spending the past nine seasons at South Alabama (2002-07) and Arkansas (2007-11). He was fired last month after posting a 69-59 record with the Razorbacks.
Pelphrey and Donovan essentially grew up coaching together. Donovan was 23 years old when he became a graduate assistant at Kentucky under Pitino in 1991. Pelphrey, meanwhile, was a senior captain with the Wildcats. Three years later, Donovan got the head coaching job at Marshall and asked Pelphrey to come along with him.
They won 35 games in two seasons at Marshall, then made the leap to Florida. Donovan was a young, fast-talking recruiting machine and Pelphrey was his right-hand man.
Together, they made basketball matter in Gainesville.
The Gators went 124-65 in six seasons and reached the NCAA championship game in 2000. Pelphrey and Donovan played hundreds of pickup basketball games together and numerous rounds of golf together, traveled thousands of miles together and shared more experiences together than they could have imagined.
They got so close that Pelphrey even named his daughter, Ann-Marie Grace Donovan, after his one-time coach and longtime mentor.
"Bringing some familiarity back here, someone that knows me, that knows Florida, understands the SEC, understands the program, its importance," Donovan said. "John knows the league. He knows what I'm going to be looking for and wanting in recruiting and knows the office and all those things."
Roberts, a 1987 graduate of Queens College in New York City, spent six seasons at St. John's before he was fired last year. He was 81-101 and never made the NCAA tournament.
Roberts also served as an assistant under Kansas coach Bill Self at four different schools. He was associate head coach at Kansas (2003-04) and an assistant at Illinois (2000-03), Tulsa (1997-2000) and Oral Roberts (1995-97).
"Norm's a guy that's been around," Donovan said. "He's been at Kansas, he's been at Illinois, he's been at St. John's, been in a lot of different leagues, had to recruit nationally. ... The first thing you have to look at is high quality people. He has an impeccable reputation."
The Gators expect to have a team capable of competing for the Southeastern Conference championship and making another run in the NCAA tournament. Although Donovan lost three starters -- Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin -- he returns everyone else and adds Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario and highly coveted shooting guard Brad Beal, a McDonald's All-American from St. Louis.
Donovan has one open coaching spot remaining. Former Florida guard Brett Nelson, who spent last season as an assistant under Pelphrey at Arkansas, is among the candidates.
"I don't know who it's going to be right now," Donovan said. "Some of this is happening quickly. I wanted to get two people in place right away that I thought could make a great impact."