Florida coach Billy Donovan acknowledged Arkansas' new head coach John Pelphrey, and proclaimed success for the future of Arkansas basketball. And he should know, with Pelphrey acting as his right hand man for several very successful years at Florida.
“I think John is going to do great. He is in a great situation," Donovan said. "With their tradition, support and facilities, it is a great opportunity for him. I also think with John playing at Kentucky and being here at Florida, he understands the league and the environment in this league. I think he will do a terrific job. He is dealing with a veteran team. It is very similar to the situation when we came to Marshall. I was 28 and inherited a team that had six seniors and a talented group."
Donovan continued, “John is probably going to implement things he needs to do to win games. But there is no question he inherited a team that is very gifted, very talented and has one of best frontcourts in the league to go with (guard Patrick) Beverly. There are a lot of pieces there. I also think he is a good enough coach that they will take to him well.”
Touching on a potentially explosive subject, coach Dennis Felton addressed the race issue. The Georgia coach was once four of minority coaches in the SEC. Now he is the only one left. But he wouldn't cite race as a reason for the turnover.
“This industry is as volatile as any industry there is in the country. It is very challenging for all coaches. It doesn’t take much for someone to up and choose they don’t want you to be their coach. Turnover has been there, and is only increasing. Regardless of race, we (coaches) are all very vulnerable to being removed from our positions. I don’t think race has anything to do with it.”
South Carolina's Dave Odom took a look at the upcoming conference race. "I think the East and West both are going to have another excellent year nationally. I think the Eastern Division is going to again be very, very strong. Tennessee not only returns the most players and best team in our league, but is going to be in the top 10, maybe the top five, nationally. You could make a case for them to be top five. They will be the odds-on favorite going into our league.
“Kentucky will be strong. They have an excellent perimeter game. If they get their inside game worked out, they will be very good. Georgia lost two players, but the bulk of of their team is back and they are going to make a run.
“You look at Florida and say it will be hard for them to be as good, and it probably will be. But by same token, they return good players. They will be good.
“Vanderbilt and ourselves, I think will both be improved. When you look at our team, we will have four new starters. I don’t think we will be inexperienced. I think we will be new.”
Continue to check KSR for updates, including special comments from Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie in Part II.