Teddy Dupay took a lot of shots during his time – – – his shortened time – – – at The University of Florida.
692 to be exact.
And he made a heckuva lot of ‘em.
Some were game changers.
A few were program changers.
But it was a second shot that altered his life.
“Florida gave me another shot. Most people don’t know that,” Dupay reveals.
The impact of a second chance is best measured by the lost opportunity that preceded, and the renewed promise that followed.
It was not a word typically associated with Dupay, a consummate winner and the face of Donovan’s emerging program in the early 2000’s.
Known simply as “Teddy” the boyish-looking, yet brash sharpshooter helped transform Florida’s program with a single stroke of the pen, and a shooting stroke the barely rippled the net.
But on a fall day in 2001, Teddy was lost.
“I still remember sitting there on September 7th, reading my statement and seeing Coach Donovan’s wife sitting in the front row crying. And seeing little Billy there — and he was upset. Everyone was — and they were all there to support me. It is still a memory that sticks in my head very strongly,” he says. “But in some ways, it has become a good memory”.
A good memory?
Dupay has plenty of those, but announcing his dismissal would hardly seem to qualify.
“It is,” he insists, but then allows himself to drift off to happier moments — like the day he penned his coveted name and altered the course of Gator basketball.
“I committed as 16-year-old and signed my letter of intent on national signing day at 7:01. It was such a rush. From there I really pushed on guys to let them know it was okay to come to Florida,” Dupay recalls.
And they did.
To the dismay of basketball traditionalists, and even some scorned coaches — they all came. And so too did the victories.
Dupay averaged 11 points per game in his first season, and helped pace a balanced squad that raced into the Sweet 16 for only the third time in program history.
Ah — great memories.
Well, maybe not. That one still sticks in the craw of the ultra-competitive Dupay, whose thoughts cannot leave the court, even if his battered body has long since limped off.
“We should have won that game. We made some big time blunders to lose,” he laments. “Had we made one more play against Gonzaga I think we would have beaten UCONN and pushed through to the Final Four”.
Of course, Florida did push through a year later— not only breaking into the Final Four, but falling one victory short of a national title.
The championship contest put Florida basketball on its biggest stage to date, and so too its star guard. But in a moment that oddly foreshadowed a dismantling of his image, Dupay was thrashed by commentator, Billy Packer.
“Teddy Dupay doesn’t guard people. He mugs them,” Packer infamously told a national audience following a collision with Michigan State guard, Mateen Cleaves. “Teddy Dupay does that time and time again”.
Who could have possibly known such an indictment would be among the more mild characterizations Dupay would hear during the next several years of a soon-to-be rollercoaster life?
And though he contends being unfazed, the harsh criticism provided Dupay a glimpse into the ripple effect of his actions.
“Nah, I wasn’t bothered by it. It was a basketball play. But I learned quickly that words really are powerful and that you just have to phase that stuff out,” he says.
“I’ve had to do that a lot,” Dupay continues after a reflective pause. His tone hints at things far more profound than a basketball critique.
A lot, indeed — certainly more than Teddy Dupay would have ever imagined. The tear-filled press conference was only prelude to an odd, sometimes sad, and always well-chronicled free fall that seemed destined for tragedy.
“I have had some deep, dark points — some sad stuff and stupid mistakes,” he says with an uncharacteristically heavy inflection. “But I have always had a great support group, and a lot of that starts with The University of Florida,” he says, enthusiasm returning to his voice.
But it wasn’t always that way.
“When I first left the program I distanced myself. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of myself. I was humiliated,” he says.
“And then I wanted to prove that I could do it without any help. I didn’t need anybody”.
And he nearly did do it himself, having great success in the ABA, CBA and the NBA’s developmental league. Dupay seemed poised to overcome that sad fall day, and capture his basketball dream.
But different type of fall was looming.
“I was right on the brink of my ultimate goal, and then I injured my knee,” he says.
But there is no pause this time.
There is no reflection on the moment his career effectively ended.
Instead, Dupay rushes to his next thought.
“It was then that I saw how tightly knit my Gator family is,” he says. “With coach’s help, I was welcomed back to school to finish my degree — and still on full scholarship. I am an alumnus of the University of Florida because of the incredible atmosphere there, and all of the support. A very proud alumnus,” he continues.
For much of his life, Dupay was the pride — the pride of Mariner High School, where he set the state’s career scoring record. And the pride of Gainesville—not only as catalyst of a suddenly surging program, but also gutsy a baller who famously defied a debilitating back injury to propel his Gators past hated Tennessee.
But fame gave way to infamy, and pride conceded to bewilderment, and perhaps even a level of shame.
But in his story of redemption, Dupay refuses to turn back the pages.
“I spend exactly zero seconds thinking about that stuff now,” he says.
And who can blame him? For years —not seconds, minutes hours or days —, but for years it was all Teddy heard, thought or read.
“I know people have read things about me and will pass judgment based on that. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s my reality,” he says. “There are plenty of positive things I have been able to do and things I am very proud of — and much of that doesn’t get publicized. I am not in the public eye anymore, and that’s ok. That’s a good thing”.
Perhaps Dupay’s is marred by lingering perception. But quietly— in ways that belie his once brash stlye— Teddy is changing all of that, even if unintentionally. The gunner who once jumped on the scorer’s table following a win over Kentucky, now shies from the spotlight and seems content even if his redemption story is known only to those he is helping
“I am just trying to be the best person I can be— for myself, but more so for the kids,” he says.
And for many kids, he is not only the best person— but the person, the role model.
Dupay, a role model? For some — those who read and remember only the “dark days”— it may be unthinkable. But in reality (there’s that word again) few possess similar insight, experiences and perspectives.
Few have the story.
Even fewer have the stage.
“I want to teach kids to believe in themselves, but also fundamentals of life – how to treat people and how important it is to make good choices,” he says. “And because I have made mistakes— maybe that gives me a little more credibility. And because I have played basketball— maybe that gives me a stage”.
Dupay now has several “stages”, professionally and personally. Residing in Tampa, he works for a private equity firm and serves as executive director of a real estate investment school. But his favorite pupils remain the kids, including and especially his daughter.
And his biggest investment is in their future.
“I am very grateful for the success I have had in my business career,” he says. “But when you have that success, I think you also have an obligation to the community. I am investing a lot of my time working with kids through The Skills Center. And I have been fortunate enough to be included on the board of directors — so I can effect change on a few different levels. And I love working with the kids individually— to reach them on a personal level. I don’t think there is such thing as a bad kid”.
In what seems like another moment of reflection, Dupay pauses—and then hesitantly grants himself the same latitude.
“I am a great guy. I try to help people. I have a big heart. I’m not a bad person. I made some really bad decisions and put myself in some awful situations,” he says. “I know what some people think, and I understand. But the people who know me — really know me — they would say the same thing”.
And who are those people who “really know” Teddy?
Well, they are the very ones he credits for that second chance— that second shot. They stuck with him through the darkest of times. Many are members of his “Gator family”.
“I talk to Coach all the time. The guy is incredible. Coach Grant and Donnie Jones are great, great friends of mine. We have become friends as adults,” he says. “They are my support group. They were there for me after I foolishly tried to do it all on my own”.
And in return, he has been there for them — his gator brethren — quite literally and perhaps metaphorically.
“I keep in touch with just about every teammate, and not just my teammates, but a lot of the guys who came after me — David Lee, Matt Walsh, Roberson, Jo Noah, Al, Taurean. I feel eternally connected to every person who comes through the program,” he says.
The pride is bubbling over now and Dupay makes no effort to hold it back. Just for a moment, his basketball swagger returns.
“We have a program. Florida IS a basketball program. What we have been able to build, and are continuing to grow and build right now— there is nobody on the planet more proud than me,” he says.
And make no mistake — though separated from his playing days by over a dozen years, Dupay is still part of that building, still helping propel what he set in motion as a 16-year-old kid.
“I worked with Alex Tyus this summer, helping him with his shot. He came back from overseas and was in a bit of a slump, but worked through it. He’s a great guy, a great Gator. ” he says.
They are all ‘great gators’ to Teddy. In yet another metamorphosis for Dupay, player has become fan — and a rather rabid one.
“I go to a bunch of games. To be honest, I now get more nervous watching than I ever did playing,” he laughs.
There is another emotion he feels, something other than nervousness when Dupay watches his ‘Gator family’ play.
“Every time they turn those lights off I cry. I don’t know why,” he reveals.
And the pride is being reciprocated now in ways once unforeseen, and hardly expected.
“Fans come up and say ‘hi’ or shake hands. A lot of them will tell me I was one their favorite players, or will talk about a certain game or particular shot. It kinda brings me back,” he says.
Teddy Dupay – back? Perhaps not entirely, but he is well on his way.
But it may be a second shot that matters most — to him, his fans, his family, his gator family and of course, the kids.