The second time is a charm for both Billy Donovan and Rob Lanier. Last year when Donovan offered Lanier a chance to join the Florida basketball staff, the University of Virginia assistant and former head coach at Siena said thanks, but no thanks. Donovan came calling again this spring and now Lanier has decided it’s time to be a Gator.
Lanier is joining the Florida staff to fill the vacancy left by long time assistant Donnie Jones, who took the head coaching job at Marshall after 11 years at Florida with Donovan. Lanier has spent the last two years on Dave Leitao’s staff at Virginia. He spent four years as the head coach at Siena where he took the Saints to a Metro Atlantic Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2002 and the NIT in 2003. He had a 57-80 record in his four years at Siena.
Prior to taking the Siena job, Lanier was part of Rick Barnes’ staff at Texas where he earned a reputation as a dynamic recruiter and a great developer of talent. It was at Texas where he coached and recruited guards T.J. Ford, Royal Ivey and Maurice Evans, that Lanier became good friends with Florida associate head coach Larry Shyatt. Shyatt had a long association with Barnes at both Providence and Clemson and the two coaches remain very close friends.
“Obviously there is that connection with Rick Barnes,” said Shyatt, talking by phone from New York. “I have a long association with Rick and Rob worked under him at Texas where he did such a great job. We’ve been friends since he worked at Texas and I have a tremendous respect for him. Rob is an excellent choice for our staff. He’s a bright coach who will fit in so well with our staff and players.”
Shyatt said that Lanier brings plenty of strengths to the Florida coaching staff.
“Coach Donovan was looking for someone with strengths in both the coaching aspect and individual work with players as well as recruiting,” said Shyatt. “There aren’t many guys that are standouts at both coaching and recruiting and that’s why the search process took a while longer. That’s what Coach Donovan wanted and that’s what we got in Rob.”
Lanier is also a friend of Florida assistant coach Lewis Preston. Preston came to Florida last year from Notre Dame, taking the spot on the staff vacated by Anthony Grant after he took the head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth. Preston’s spot on the Florida staff was originally offered to Lanier.
“I’m really excited that he’s coming here,” said Preston. “I’ve known him ore over the course of the last couple of years but I also knew him when he was the head coach at Siena.
“I like him a lot and he’s well respected in the business for his ability to recruit. I’ve heard only great things about him from guards in how he played a part in their development. He will bring a unique perspective in our day to day work.”
Preston said that having another coach on the staff with head coaching experience can only help his own development.
“Naturally, I want to be a head coach some day,” said Preston. “I’m working under the best head coach in the business in Billy Donovan and I’ve learned so much from Larry Shyatt. Now here’s another guy who’s been a head coach so I’m going to learn a lot. It’s an exciting time for me.”
Lanier is the son of Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, the great center from St. Bonaventure and in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons. Rob Lanier lettered in basketball for four years at St. Bonaventure and started three seasons for the Bonnies. He has a degree in psychology from St. Bonaventure and a master’s degree in educational counseling from Niagara University.
In addition to his college coaching experiences at Siena, Texas and Virginia, Lanier also served as an assistant coach at Niagara, St. Bonaventure and Rutgers.
He is married to Dr. Dayo Lanier and they have two children.