25 Years After Run With Providence, Rick Pitino And Billy Donovan Fight Each Other For Final Four Berth

The built-in storyline for this afternoon's Louisville-Florida game is the connection between the two head coaches. In 1987, Rick Pitino coached a Providence team, lead by point guard Billy Donovan, to the Final Four by exploiting the new rules-change that created the three-point shot. There are several stories recapping that season, and the tumultuous times leading up to it (including the death of Pitino's infant son), but the connection between Pitino and Donovan is the driving force.

When Pitino arrived in 1986, Donovan was overweight and wanted to transfer to Northeastern or Farfield. "Pitino told his player he would call both schools' coaches (coincidentally, one of whom was Jim Calhoun, who was still coaching at Northeastern). Donovan left Pitino's office, and the coach said a 'Hail Mary and thanked God' he was gone." Neither wanted Donovan, so Pitino was stuck with him.

Under Pitino, Donovan transformed himself and became the leader of the team on the court as they shot their way to the Final Four. After his college career ended, Donovan played sparingly in the NBA and later tried his hand as a stockbroker on Wall Street before eventually becoming an assistant for Pitino at Kentucky. After four years at Kentucky, Donovan got his first head coaching job at Marshall and two years after that he become the head coach at Florida.

While Donovan has two National Championships to Pitino's one, he has never beaten Pitino head-to-head. There's no time quite like the pair's first meeting in the NCAA Tournament to buck that trend.

Pitino, Donovan share Providence bond [MSN]
Pitino and Donovan together again [ESPN]