For weeks, Billy Donovan sounded like a parent using the media to ask a prodigal son to come home, that everything could be forgiven with some communication and maybe a little tough love. Although it was clear that Donovan had resigned himself to the fact that Damontre Harris was never going to come back into the fold, the door remained open until it served no purpose even keep it cracked for one more day.
It was Saturday that Donovan delivered the the news that everybody — Harris included — knew was coming. A short statement delivered by email to the state’s media outlets told that Harris, a 6-10, 228-pound shot blocking center who transferred to the University of Florida from South Carolina after the 2011-12 season, was dismissed from the team.
Harris sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. A dislocated shoulder required surgery and once that healed there was a high ankle sprain. Donovan estimates that Harris never participated in more than 12-14 practices all of last season. In the summer prior to this season, Harris was suspended for a violation of team rules along with Dorian Finney-Smith. While Smith did all that was required to get back on the team (he served a three-game suspension), Harris drifted away from the team and went incommunicado. On at least three occasions, Donovan used the media to get the message out to Harris — just call me!
Harris rarely called. Nor did he do the things that were required of him to have his suspension from the team lifted.
“The things that I think we were asking him to do were not unreasonable things,” Donovan said Saturday after the Gators thrashed Fresno State, 66-49, in the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. “I always look at things that when guys are doing certain things, my point of reference is if a guy was acting like this in a job would he be fired and the answer is yes, he would be fired.”
There were no red flags prior to the suspension and nothing that Donovan got from South Carolina when Harris transferred indicated he was dealing with a potential problem. Jettisoning Harris was not what Donovan ever wanted but when Harris wouldn’t respond to continued efforts to reach out, there were no further options.
So Harris was fired.
“I feel like as a coach I’ve got a responsibility to these guys to explain to them about being professional, about being on time, about going to class, about holding up their appointments, being where you’re supposed to be, returning phone calls and doing those things,” Donovan said. “I think this year was so uncharacteristic of him.”
Donovan stated that he truly hopes Harris can land in a good place where he can get his life and his basketball career back on track.
“He is a good kid,” Donovan said. “He is not a bad kid. We’ve gone above and beyond to try to help him but it was one of those things where I don’t really think he wanted any help. I don’t think he necessarily made a commitment to want to play and I am sad that it worked out the way it did because he’s a good kid. I hope he can find a home somewhere and kind of get himself re-directed. ”