Donovan, Ford reunite at Madison Square Garden in NIT

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Click here to hear Eli Rosenswaike and Michael King discuss the upcoming match up with the Gators.

The Massachusetts men’s basketball program doesn’t have a lot in common with Florida.

The Gators are the two-time defending NCAA National Champions, while UMass hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in 10 years. And the campuses are in completely different parts of the country and over 1,000 miles apart.

But despite all these differences, the Minutemen and the Gators will meet tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York in the semifinals of the NIT. And it will be a homecoming and reunion of sorts for those involved.

UMass junior point guard Chris Lowe will play against close friend and former high school teammate Jonathan Mitchell, and four Minutemen (Gary Forbes, Dante Milligan, Etienne Brower and Lowe) get to return to their home state to play the Gators.

But the most intriguing reunion will pit UMass coach Travis Ford against friend and mentor Billy Donovan on the opposing coaching sidelines.

The two have remained close from their days together at Kentucky, when Ford was a star point guard and Donovan was on the coaching staff under Rick Pitino in the early 1990s.

“He’s definitely had an influence on my playing career and coaching career, there’s no question,” Ford said of Donovan. “He’s someone when I was at Kentucky who I learned a great amount from, looked up to and spent a lot of time with individually.

“He was someone I could always turn to,” he added. “He’s always given me advice and he still does today. He’s someone I still spend time with.”

They both may coach now, but Ford remembers his one-on-one matchups with Donovan when they were together at Kentucky.

“We played a little one-on-one together