Gators faithful celebrate second title in style
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's second championship celebration looked a lot like the first.
The Gators bought the Final Four floor from the NCAA and had it on display Friday night. They unveiled a banner. They showed several highlight videos. And there were countless standing ovations.
There even was a surprise announcement.
Florida coach Billy Donovan told the packed O'Connell Center that associate head coach Donnie Jones had accepted the top job at Marshall.
The trio turned down NBA riches and helped the Gators become the seventh team in NCAA history -- first since Duke in 1992 -- to win consecutive national titles.
"Last year, these guys won a national championship with no expectations on them," Donovan said. "I think last year there was definitely a level of uncertainly of how good this team could be. I think they took everybody by surprise.
"Then they won this year having all the expectations on them. I don't know what would happen if these guys played against the UCLA teams back in the '70s or some of the Kentucky teams, the UNLV teams, the Duke teams. But I know this: This group of guys have got to go down in history and be mentioned as one of the greatest teams of all time."
The team certainly was treated like one of the greatest Friday night.
Brewer, Horford, Noah and Taurean Green got the kind of send-off usually seen on Senior Day at Florida. The four juniors, all of whom declared for the NBA draft Thursday, were honored with framed jerseys and standing ovations.
"I don't know if they totally understand what they did," Donovan said. "When they get older and look back at what they did, they're going to realize the rest of their lives they're going to always have a place in college basketball history with a very few select teams."
Florida's celebration started with a replay of Monday night's 84-75 victory over Ohio State in Atlanta. Plenty followed, including:
• The school announced it bought the Final Four floor used in Atlanta for $71,000. Last year, Florida bought the floor used in Indianapolis, repainted it and played on it during the season. This time, the floor will be cut into pieces (1 foot by 2 feet) and sold for $199 each to help fund scholarship programs.
• Florida unveiled a second championship banner in the rafters, right next to last year's one.
• The scoreboards displayed the final score and stats from the title game.
• Several highlight videos were shown, including one from this past season, "One Shining Moment" from 2006 and "One Shining Moment" from 2007.
• Confetti fell from the rafters, reminiscent of the title game.
Each of the players got loud ovations, but the biggest was for Donovan, who spurned Kentucky on Thursday to stay at Florida. The crowd chanted, "Billy, Billy, Billy" for several minutes.
"You can't buy happiness," Donovan said. "In a certain way, I took a page out of what those kids did last year. ... They understand what sacrifice can do for one another. It can take an ordinary group of guys and allow them to do extraordinary things."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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