Coach, mentor to face off in Phoenix regional final

In the NCAA Tournament, it is obvious that to be the best, you have to beat the best. In the case of Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan, you have to beat your mentor in order to reach the final four.

It was 25 years ago this month that Head Coach Rick Pitino and starting guard Billy “The Kid” Donovan reached the final four at Providence.

“I’ve said this, outside of my parents, he’s (Pitino) been the most influential person in my life. I’m very thankful for the opportunities he’s provided me, as a player, as a coach. The relationship that we’ve shared for more than 25 years,” said Donovan after Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen win over Marquette.

“I think he’s one of the premier coaches in our game because he let’s the players play,” said Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino about Donovan. “He teaches He’s an extremely humble guy, still to this day. He has not changed one iota, except he talks more today than he did back then. He’s one of my favorites of all time.” 

Pitino, who upset the number one seeded Michigan State Spartans, moved to 10-0 in his career in the Sweet Sixteen. Donovan has not been so bad himself in the Sweet Sixteen, he is 6-1 since he has been the coach at Florida. 

Both coaches are familiar with the Elite Eight as well. Florida is making their fourth trip to the regional final in seven years and their second in consecutive seasons. Louisville is making their fourth in eight years.

This would be an ideal time for Donovan to ink his first win over his mentor. He is 0-6 in his career against Pitino. 

Tip-off is at 1:30 p.m. Arizona time from US Airways Center with a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four on the line.

For non-stop hoops talk, follow Jared Cohen on Twitter at @JaredPros2Preps.

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