How do I say good bye to what we had?
The good times that made us laugh outweigh the bad.”
Yup – - -I did it. I summoned my inner Boyz II Men.
And I am not ashamed.
I am also not embarrassed to admit hearing the song on Sirius radio yesterday, and for this first time — not changing the station. Nope, I listened — and thought of Gator basketball.
And I almost cried.
I probably should be a bit more reluctant to admit that, but what the hell.
Break-ups are never easy. And for Gator basketball fans, Billy Donovan’s departure is a heart breaker.
“One of the best, ya know,” Jeremy Foley stammered after collecting himself and holding back tears of his own.
THE best — certainly the best Florida has ever had, and likely ever will.
Those ‘good times’ are innumerable— partially captured by a laundry list of achievements most recently made synonymous with Donovan’s ‘credentials’. But each bullet-point on the resume means so much more to Florida fans, and to Billy.
They are indeed the good times that made us laugh. And from my typing chair, I can peer around my office and see a few of those moments forever captured — a picture of me proudly posing with ‘Billy the Kid’ circa 2002; myself and a giddy group of friends in Atlanta celebrating Florida’s first SEC Tournament title; a jubilant selfie with the backdrop of falling confetti and the scoreboard flashing Florida’s first National Championship.
Even more vivid than the photos are some timeless memories — Mike Miller’s buzzer beater and the ensuing mayhem; Teddy Dupay jumping on the scorer’s table and leading a frenzied Gator crowd in the wake of a statement win over Kentucky; Taurean Green dancing down the final seconds in Indy; Joakim Noah famously screaming, “We’re back, baby!”; Billy thrusting his arms skyward after a Parson’s prayer slipped through the net; a senior-laden squad cutting down the net’s in the O’Connell center and alas in Memphis; Billy finally finding pause to celebrate win number 500….
And then there were some subtle moments I was privy to, but will not soon forget — like when presumed champion Florida squeaked past USC for another conference tournament title, and Joakim Noah instantly sprinted off the court to embrace his coach. Or when that same duo once prepared for a post-game interview, and coach implored player to “act normal”— a suggestion met with hysterical laughter. Or when one-time Gator ball boy returned to Gainesville— first to play against his dad, and then to play for him. Or the gut-wrenchingly long, postgame handshake after Billy defeated his dear friend, Anthony Grant, for the tenth and final time.
But an enduring image, and perhaps appropriately, is that of Donovan speaking to his team just before taking to the court in Indianapolis. “Live in the moment. Cherish each moment,” he implored.
Today, Billy’s longtime mantra seems even more poignant. An incredible 19-year ride suddenly seems fleeting. What had always felt simultaneously unfathomable and inevitable — has happened.
I thought that we’d see forever, but forever’s gone away.
It’s so hard to say good bye to yesterday.”
And though I was privileged enough to be part of so many moments, and like the rest of us — witness to the golden years of Florida basketball — I can’t help but wish I had ‘lived in the moment’ a bit more than I had. Especially since that moment is gone.
And so I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain.”
Thanks, Coach! Thanks for the memories.