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Billy Donovan's dad is a regular Gator presence

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Donovan won't be at the end of the bench Saturday night. He won't be behind it, either. He'll have to be in the stands at the RCA Dome, per NCAA rules.

But he'll be here, just like he is at nearly every Florida game to watch his son coach.

You see, Billy and Bill Donovan have something special going here. They are unlike any other father and son in the business. Bill Donovan isn't coaching with his son -- at least not in a literal sense -- like the father-son combos at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and, until recently, Washington State. But how many head coaches have their father with them at the end of the bench or, sometimes, just directly behind it?

We're not sure if there is another one out there like the Donovans. And even if there were, it would be hard to replicate the bond these two share.

"I can't put into words," said the 65-year-old Donovan of being able to be around his son on game day. "This has kept me young, vibrant and the whole family active in basketball."

Bill Donovan has an infectious personality. He has an inviting smile, an engaging handshake and a comfort that has every conversation usually ending with a laugh, a heartfelt pat and a signal that you'll see him again soon.

"I get great pleasure because he sacrificed so much for me, not only in driving to games, but I think about him taking the time to teach me right from wrong and work ethic," Billy Donovan said. "He loves basketball, too. He's a junkie who loves it."

Bill Donovan said he missed only two games this season -- only because he had to take care of some family matters on Long Island. He splits his time between there, in the same home where Billy Donovan grew up and close to where his daughter lives, and a home a mile from the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.

At every other game, Bill Donovan's been on the plane or on the bus and usually outside the locker room. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since Bill used to watch Billy play every game possible at Providence College, in high school and before that, in any youth leagues. He said he doesn't go into the locker room, though, leaving the coaching to Billy.

Bill Donovan played ball at the same high school as Billy -- St. Agnes High on Long Island. Bill then played college basketball at Boston College from 1958-62.

He worked in the textile industry during Billy's childhood and well into his adult life. Ten years ago, he broke off and started his own business in the same line of work, something he still does today, right when Billy got the Florida job. About a year later, Bill bought the house in Gainesville.

"I've been lucky to live some of his dreams with him," Bill said.

"I never get involved, never get into the locker room or into the huddles and never say anything to him, but he will bounce things off of me in recruiting, like when we go to Nike or adidas camp," said Bill Donovan, noting that he does hang with his son on recruiting trips. "He might talk to me after the game about a timeout he called or didn't.

"I absolutely love being around the players and the coaches," Bill Donovan said. "I'm like the mascot. They've all accepted me and it's been a dream come true watching him play at Providence for those four years, too."

The silver-haired Donovan and his 40-year old son strike a similar resemblance, and they're a spirited pair. Bill's wife, Joan, goes to nearly as many games, but will take some time off to be with their daughter in Long Island.

The two Donovans have 10 grandchildren -- four from Billy, four from a daughter in Gainesville and two from the other daughter in Long Island.

Bill Donovan said he's missed maybe an average of four games a year since Billy has been coaching at Florida.

"Very few [fathers] have probably something like this," Bill Donovan said. "Billy accepted me. He wants me there. I love it."

Billy Donovan said that he worries about not doing the same for his children. He said his job limits his chances of being at every one of his children's sporting events.

"I don't know what it's like not to have your dad supporting you," Billy Donovan said. "It means the world to me. I appreciate his support and being there for me."

Bill Donovan said he's so proud of his son getting back to the Final Four for the first time since 2000, his second appearance by the time he's 40 years old.

"I've seen Billy go through losing in the first couple of rounds for five straight years," Bill Donovan said. "It has taken its toll. You feel sorry things didn't go as well. But this vindicates all the hard work he's done. He went through changing [the way] he recruits, changed coaches [adding former head coach Larry Shyatt to the bench] and he did things to make the program better. This is all vindication for him."

As you can tell, Bill Donovan spins positively. This reporter has never heard him utter a negative word. Apparently, neither has his son.

"I've always said my dad has never had a bad day in his life," Billy Donovan said. "He's always happy, energetic and has enthusiasm. He's got the vigor for life and always had a smile on his face.

"I think he's a fun guy to be around and it's amazing when we went to the NCAA banquet [earlier this week], [LSU head coach] John Brady asked how my dad is doing," Billy Donovan said. "It's kind of nice but everyone that he sees enjoys being around him. He's enjoyed all of this. And it has been really good for him."

And apparently his presence has done Billy Donovan well, too. Some children might not want their father to watch them work under duress when they're under the most pressure. Not Billy Donovan. He wouldn't coach without his father being anywhere else but within eyesight of the bench.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.