Todd Golden has always held the Florida basketball program in high regard. When UF athletic director Scott Stricklin called the 36-year-old coach, he knew he had to pick up the phone.
“We spoke to an overwhelming number of people in and around the sport of basketball,” Stricklin said. “Whether it was someone in the NBA or someone in college basketball, Todd's name kept coming up.”
Golden’s rise to prominence in basketball circles didn’t happen overnight and his connection to analytics began early in his life.
As a young kid, Golden would sit at his kitchen table eating breakfast with his father, Scott.
While Golden fueled up for a day at school, his dad would read the newspaper. After scouring the sports section, he would pass the paper to his son.
“I would go through and look at box scores and fell in love with looking at numbers,” Golden said.
The obsession with statistics followed Golden to high school and then his time as a walk-on point guard at Saint Mary’s College.
When playing for the Gaels from 2004-08, his coaches Randy Bennett and Kyle Smith calculated around 40 different statistics during games and practices, using them as learning opportunities for their players.
“I saw what it did for me and the opportunities that it provided me,” Golden said. “It would be silly if I didn't take advantage of that as a coach.”
The coaching style worked, as Saint Mary’s landed two NCAA Tournament berths during Golden’s time in Moraga, California.
Advancing past his college days, Golden traveled overseas to play professionally in Israel. He spent two seasons with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Premier League from 2008-10. Golden then traveled back to the United States and began working in corporate marketing and sales.
His first job was at IMG College, and his second at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. The years Golden spent putting his business administration degree to use revealed a desire to reconnect with the sport he loves.
“I didn't want to come to work in a suit and tie every day,” Golden said. “It gave me kind of the jolt I needed to get back into basketball and into coaching.”
Two-year stints at Columbia and Auburn got Golden in the mix. He followed the same trajectory with both programs, getting in the door as a director of basketball operations and then moving up to an assistant coach role.
At Colombia, Golden worked under one of his former Saint Mary’s coaches, Smith, who landed the head gig with the Lions in 2010. The connection would prove fruitful for Golden again in 2016, but he took a dive into the SEC first.
Golden joined Bruce Pearl’s staff at Auburn in 2014. During his time with the Tigers, he would begin to rely on his analytical mind more. Golden headed up Auburn’s metrics data breakdowns and spent time getting accustomed to the conference’s landscape.
“Really those two years made me very comfortable in the process with Scott,” Golden said. “Talking about what we could do [at Florida] and different things we could take from the first couple of years building [Auburn] up and what we could transition here”
After departing from Auburn, Golden would reunite with Smith yet another time, jumping to the University of San Francisco as associate head coach from 2016-19. The job would eventually give Golden full control of the Dons in 2019.
It took time for USF to break into the national scene, despite a 22-win season in Golden’s first year.
Playing in one of the premier mid-major leagues, the West Coast Conference and among the likes of powerhouse Gonzaga was no easy task. Yet, the Dons would find success and snap a 24-year NCAA Tournament drought this past season. San Francisco won 24 games and earned a No. 10-seed in the Big Dance, ultimately getting bounced by No. 7-seed Murray State in the first round.
The year was Golden’s best and put him on the Gators’ radar.
While at Florida, he aims to bring the program back to its old prominence. Expectations can never be too high, Golden said.
The source of those very expectations is legendary head coach Billy Donovan, who spent 19 seasons at UF with a 467-185 record and brought the school two national championships.
Golden understands just how impressive the feat of back-to-back titles is. He was playing at Saint Mary’s during Florida’s best seasons under Donovan and followed those teams closely.
“I was able to talk to Coach Donovan last Saturday for about 30 minutes, and it gave me goosebumps the whole time we were chatting,” Golden said. “I want to pick his brain. I want him to be a big resource for me. He is a guy I look up to both from a coaching standpoint and also as a man.”
On Wednesday, Golden hammered two points home: he is confident in his ability to lead, and he wants to be at UF.
Golden wants to hit the ground running and bring together a deep roster for next season. The Gators will see seven seniors depart and just recently lost a commitment from five-star forward Malik Reneau. Golden aims to build a group of talented players by any means, working the transfer portal and establishing a strong recruiting base.
When forming his staff and initial team, Golden will target individuals that admire their opportunities.
“I expect my student-athletes as well as my staff to have an attitude of appreciation,” Golden said. “I won't take anything less than guys being super grateful for being a part of it.”
Building bonds with his players that extend beyond something transactional is essential for Golden’s coaching style. He wants to know his players personally and wants them to take pride in playing for him and their school. Golden built this respect with his players at San Francisco and hopes to replicate it at UF.
“Making sure you know who their girlfriends are, what their social lives are like, what kind of music they like to listen to,” Golden said.”When you build those types of relationships, that's when you get guys to play hard for you.”
Golden finished his opening address with a promise on behalf of himself and his future teams, encompassing the outlook of his tenure.
“We'll have a lot of pride wearing the orange and blue, and I can say from the bottom of my heart that I'm incredibly proud to be a Gator.”
Contact Joseph Henry at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.
Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper.