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Donovan after win No. 400 tonight

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan had two thoughts when he was asked about what picking up his 400th career victory would mean.

No. 1: He's had a lot of good players in his two years at Marshall and his 15-plus years in Gainesville.

No. 2: "It makes me feel very old," Donovan said.

Donovan really isn't. He's only 46, but he's been a head coach since he was 29 years old. He was an assistant with Rick Pitino at Kentucky when Marshall hired him in 1993 to turn around a program that had averaged just 13 victories in the six seasons prior to his arrival.

Little more than 17 years later, he is on the verge of picking up his 400th victory in just his 568th career game if the Gators (4-1) beat Stetson (3-2) Monday in Orlando.

"Any time you you get to those milestones they're always something special, but I think more than anything else they reflect back on the guys that I had the chance to coach," Donovan said. "To be able to be here for so long and for that to happen, I've just been blessed to have a lot of really good players."

Donovan has coached eight first-round NBA draft picks, and those players helped him win four Southeastern Conference regular-season titles, three SEC Tournament titles and two national championships. The Gators also reached the 2000 Final Four and came within 10 minutes of reaching another last season.

Donovan already is the winningest coach in Florida history (364 victories), and his 25 NCAA Tournament victories more than triple the seven the school had before his arrival.

Despite those accomplishments, Donovan keeps going back to how old No. 400 will make him feel. Maybe that's because he can't remember which team he beat for victory No. 1.

"I can't even tell you who we played," said Donovan, who is 399-168 overall and 364-148 at Florida. "I have no idea. It was a long time ago."

It was Central Michigan. Marshall won 87-80 in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

"It doesn't seem that long ago, but in a lot of ways it is a lot long ago," he said. "There's been some players that I've even recruited 15, 20 years ago that now have got kids that are playing. It's a little strange. Sometimes I think the interesting thing is you look at your parents, you see them [and you say], 'Oh, they're old.' But you realize that 20 years as you get older and older is not a lot of time, but in a lot of realms it is a lot of time."

Donovan said he's avoided the monotony of every season feeling the same by enjoying the process of the team improving and developing each season as much as he enjoys the results.

"It's fresh in a lot of ways," he said. "You look at this for Will Yeguete getting the first chance to start [against Jacksonville last Friday] and trying to help him through that. Patric Young in a different role. Brad Beal trying to manage expectations of being a heralded freshman coming in. Erving Walker starting off a little bit slow and trying to get him [going]. It's those things that really make it exciting, fresh and new.

"It's the process of getting the team to the level you think you can get them to, and there's certain years people may look at it and say you've under-achieved, there's certain times where people say you may have over-achieved, or you just did OK. What you're trying to do is get them to see what they need to do as a group and as individuals to get better. I find that still to be very enjoyable, exciting and part of why I enjoy coaching."

That part, anyway, makes him still feel pretty young.

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.