Back in the 2011-12 season Billy Donovan asked Erving Walker, one of his best players that season, to become the team leader. It didn’t work out so well.
Similarly, Donovan is going through that situation again considering who can be a potential leader, but he’s taking a different route.
“I learned, it was interesting, I learned a lot. I really tried to force Erving Walker into a leadership role, I really did, because I thought he could do it,” Donovan said. “I think the team respected him, he was a competitor, he had made big shots, he played a lot of minutes and I forced that on him and it got a point where he couldn’t handle it. It was too much for him.”
Fast-forward three years and Donovan doesn’t want to pursue that idea again. Instead, the 19-year veteran coach wants to allow his players this season to evolve into that role.
Donovan believes it’s too early to see any of his players fully develop into a leader especially in the preseason. But he’ll rather have someone take on that challenge when ready.
“I think the leadership, I believe with a lot of these guys, certainly you want to develop and help them and there’s certain guys that will evolve into that but the minute you start asking them to lead, if he doesn’t believe he’s ready to lead and take over a team and be that kind of voice, it’s difficult.”
Donovan didn’t only have this experience with Walker, but with Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin and even Joakim Noah. However, with those players, Donovan didn’t force leadership on them, they grew into the role.
The Florida head coach said Young became a good leader during his senior season, same with Wilbekin after his suspension. Donovan added that it’s his job as a coach to be a leader with the coaching staff and empower the players to step up.
As a result, early signs of leadership have shown from certain players, but in a different manner.
During the team’s first practice sessions, Donovan described the younger players becoming like students to the experience.
“Well I think what you actually see more than anyone else is some of the younger guys going over to Dorian Finney-Smith or Chris Chiozza going to Kasey Hill or Jon Horford going to somebody where they’re asking questions,” Donovan said. “You know, Devin Robinson is going to Alex Murphy. So you see opportunities for guys to lead, for it to evolve so there are some of those younger guys cause things are moving pretty quick.”
One thing Donovan hasn’t seen yet is someone portraying being a leader and grouping the team during practices, which is something, he saw from Wilbekin to collectively put everyone on the same page.
But that is something he can wait to encounter, as the main objective now is to move forward as a unit.
“I haven’t necessarily seen that in anybody yet,” Donovan said. “Although I think guys are collectively, I think Dorian’s stepping up, I think Kasey, Michael Frazier, some of the returning players collectively are trying to help in that area.”