Why is Belichick giving pep talk to Gators on basketball?
It's easy to see anything can happen in Madness
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Take a look at Florida. Before the Gators arrived here, Coach Billy Donovan had Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, give the team a pep talk. Stay focused on the job at hand, Belichick told the players.
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Article published Mar 17, 2006
Team motivation comes with NFL twist
It is a friendship that came about because of a mutual acquaintance, Billy Donovan's best man in his wedding who designed the Super Bowl champion rings for the New England Patriots.
It led to a pair of four-hour dinners between Donovan and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the last one coming Monday night at Stonewood.
Belichick was in town for UF's pro day and called the Florida basketball coach to see if they could get together.
"Just about coaching," Donovan said. "We didn't talk Xs and Os but more about relationships with players."
The friendship took another turn on Tuesday before the Gators practiced in preparation for their trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Donovan, always looking for something to motivate his players, called Belichick and asked him if he would speak to his team.
So as the Gators gathered in a room at the practice facility to watch tape, the man who has made hooded sweatshirts famous entered the room.
His message was simple - congratulations on winning the SEC Tournament, guys, but it won't matter if you lay an egg in the NCAAs.
"You might be able to beat South Alabama nine times out of 10," Belichick told the team, "but if you let Thursday be that one time, you'll never forget it."
Florida, as a three seed, would be playing in front of a pro-UF crowd, but none of those people in the stands could help them make a basket. So the only way to embrace the present was to forget the past.
"It's the same message I always try to get through to these guys," Donovan said. "But here comes a guy who is so well respected telling them. It's like talking to your kids. Sometimes you just need a different voice."
And when that different voice is backed up by three Super Bowl rings, it gets your attention.
It got theirs.
"It settled a lot of us down," said Corey Brewer. "He was telling us how to win big games. He knows how to do that. He just told us to do our jobs, whatever you have to do to get the win."
It would have been easy for this team to feel good about itself. The Gators had overcome the loss of the Big Three to put together a season of memories that included a second straight SEC Tournament title.
The celebration in Nashville was still ringing in their collective ears when it came time to get ready for South Alabama.
"If anyone was on Cloud Nine," said junior Chris Richard, "he brought them down."
Belichick's message didn't take right away. Florida played a first half that was sloppy and erratic, but still led by six at the half.
Then it was time for Donovan to deliver a message of his own. Calm down, everybody. Get the ball inside the way we talked about before the game. You can't win this game in one possession.
Florida was clearly better than South Alabama, but if you let a 14th-seeded team hang around and hang around, that's when the Madness grabs you by the throat.
After a half where the Gators looked a little too hyped up, they settled into a methodical beatdown of the Jaguars.
With Lee Humphrey knocking down threes and Joakim Noah playing what has become a typical game for the 6-foot-11 post player, the Gators turned it into a rout.
"We didn't play like we were supposed to in the first half," Richard said. "We want to win so bad."
This is a team that has accomplished so much but is still weighed down with the sins of the past, five straight exits from the Dance before the weekend. It's not their fault, but they are still having to deal with it on every other question.
That's why it was good to get someone else's view of the situation to help them get to Saturday with a pulse.
"We need this next game," said Brewer, "to quiet everybody up."
Contact Pat Dooley at email@example.com or 374-5053. Dooley's columns appear Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
He is scouting all the Florida college "Pro Days" where all the prospects from a college work out for GMs, scouts, and coaches.
He also me with Caldwell down there.
I have to wonder what else is he doing down there? Perhaps meeting with a FA who has some questions about their character or desire, a la Corey Dillon when he was met with in Hartford before his trade to the Pats. Gotta think there is an alterior motive to his trip.
My guess is he was also at the Florida State Pro Day which was also later in the week. There are many Seminole prospects that could be intriguing. In no particular order: Kamerion Wimbley (DE/OLB) Antonio Cromartie (CB coming off an ACL) and Ernie Sims (OLB). Broderick Bunkley is also very good, but I can't see them taking a DT in the first round.
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