tampabay.com

Donovan won't relax quite yet

By ANTONYA ENGLISH and JOHN SCHWARB
Published April 2, 2006


INDIANAPOLIS - So far, so good for Florida and Billy Donovan. But that's not the same as saying there's time to take it all in.

Moments after the Gators' 73-58 win over George Mason in the semifinals, the coach accepted the congratulations but not any thoughts of a moment's relaxation with one more game to play.

"People say this all the time, go enjoy it," Donovan said. "I can't say I have time to do that. It's so hard as a coach or a player to really go out and enjoy it because there is so much stuff."

Donovan acknowledged the Gator faithful in the streets and hotel lobbies, but the time to reflect isn't now.

"To sit there and say, just go out and have a great time and enjoy the atmosphere, it's hard to do that," he said. "I don't think any of this stuff ever settles in until after it's over."

BIG BONUS: Donovan stands to get a nice financial bonus for Florida's postseason success.

Donovan, who makes about $1.7-million in base salary, could earn an additional $200,000.

He earned $100,000 for reaching the Final Four and is almost assured $50,000 for being among the Top 10 in the last Associated Press poll. Donovan will pick up $50,000 should the Gators win it all.

FATHER'S ADVICE: Former Miami star and NBA player Tito Horford is intent on keeping his son from making the same mistakes he did.

A father at 19 whose own father died during his sophomore year in college and left five other children to care for, Horford felt compelled to leave early for the NBA.

He played two years as a reserve in Milwaukee then many more overseas before ending his career in 2004.

"My son is going to stay in school," Tito Horford said. "He's not rushing. He enjoys college. He loves Florida, so he's not even thinking about the NBA right now."

Meanwhile, French Open champion and former tennis star Yannick Noah, father of Joakim Noah, said he's so fired up by the atmosphere surrounding the Final Four, he wishes he had been a basketball player.

"When I see this atmosphere, I wish I had chosen a team sport. Of course, it's kind of late," Noah said. "It's definitely more lively."

PROUD TARK: Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian hasn't lost his touch.

Once one of the most colorful coaches in America, Tarkanian drew a large crowd of autograph and photo seekers outside a local restaurant. He was promoting his new book, Runnin' Rebel.

Tarkanian said he's thrilled for Sidney Green, one of his favorite former players, and Green's son, Taurean, who is a Gators starter.

"I watched his son grow up," he said. "So I'm really pleased with what he's doing."

Tarkanian said he has watched a few Gator games on television and called them dangerous. He said Noah and center Al Horford are very impressive.

"I think they're playing the best in the country right now," Tarkanian said. "(Noah and Horford) are really, really good."

PARTY AT THE O'DOME: Florida will open the O'Connell Center to fans for Monday's final.

Gates open at 8 p.m with no reserved seating. Students must enter through Gate 3, the general public through Gate 1. Contests will be held throughout the evening with prizes awarded.