- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Florida coach Billy Donovan is rebuilding his staff with a close friend and a longtime colleague.

Donovan hired former Arkansas coach John Pelphrey and former St. John’s coach Norm Roberts as assistants Tuesday. They replace associate head coach Larry Shyatt, who took the head job at Wyoming last month, and assistants Rob Lanier and Richard Pitino.

Donovan said Lanier and Pitino left for opportunities to become head coaches in waiting at Texas and Louisville, respectively. Texas officials confirmed Lanier’s hiring, but said he was not offered anything more than an assistant position. Louisville coach Rick Pitino declined comment on his son’s status.

Lanier, a former head coach at Sienna College, served as an assistant coach at Texas between 1999 and 2001. His wife, a doctor, also did her residency in Austin.

“Texas has done this before in football,” Donovan said. “There’s a strong possibility _ I don’t know all the details _ that he could be possibly be coach in waiting at Texas. They’ve talked about that.

“An opportunity to possibly be the head coach at Texas someday was an opportunity Rob really felt like he needed to take.”

Donovan said Pitino will be named associate head coach at Louisville. Pitino spent two years as an assistant under his father (2007-09) before joining Donovan in Gainesville. The Cardinals have an open spot on their coaching staff after assistant Steve Masiello agreed to become head coach at Manhattan earlier this week.

Richard’s situation, for him to be the associate head coach and possibly the head coach at Louisville, is an incredible opportunity,” Donovan said.

Donovan learned about his latest staff departures over a three-day span beginning last week.

With the recruiting period starting Friday, Donovan had to move quickly to fill the voids. So he went with people he knows, one he knows as well as anyone.

Pelphrey, who served six years (1996-2002) as an assistant under Donovan, is returning to Florida after spending the past nine seasons at South Alabama (2002-07) and Arkansas (2007-11). He was fired last month after posting a 69-59 record with the Razorbacks.

Pelphrey and Donovan essentially grew up coaching together. Donovan was 23 years old when he became a graduate assistant at Kentucky under Pitino in 1991. Pelphrey, meanwhile, was a senior captain with the Wildcats. Three years later, Donovan got the head coaching job at Marshall and asked Pelphrey to come along with him.

They won 35 games in two seasons at Marshall, then made the leap to Florida. Donovan was a young, fast-talking recruiting machine and Pelphrey was his right-hand man.

Together, they made basketball matter in Gainesville.

The Gators went 124-65 in six seasons and reached the NCAA championship game in 2000. Pelphrey and Donovan played hundreds of pickup basketball games together and numerous rounds of golf together, traveled thousands of miles together and shared more experiences together than they could have imagined.

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