When Billy Donovan left Florida to become coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, his top assistant, John Pelphrey, stayed in Gainesville.
"I was hoping the get the Florida head coaching job," Pelphrey said Tuesday.
Gators Athletics Director Jeremy Foley instead chose Louisiana Tech head man Michael White. Many then expected Pelphrey to join his longtime patron, Donovan, in the NBA.
He has not.
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"My background is coaching basketball at the college level," Pelphrey explained. "My future will be coaching basketball at the college level."
With the window of available college coaching jobs for 2015-16 closing, Pelphrey, 46, is coming to terms with the probability of his not being part of a college hoops team next winter.
"It will be very different for me if that turns out to be the case," he said.
For now, Pelphrey is becoming acquainted with a concept that is all but foreign in the no-sleep world of big-time college basketball coaching — free time.
Pelphrey gets up each morning and takes a good walk around his neighborhood. He then spends three, four hours working on professional development.
That can mean breaking down game videos looking for fresh ideas from other coaches. Or it can mean writing down lessons he learned in his head coaching stints at South Alabama (2002-07) and Arkansas (2007-11).
Afternoons bring time to lift weights and work out.
Pelphrey now has ample time to spend with family. He is married to his high school sweetheart, the former Tracy Lyon. "My wife is a tennis fanatic, so we play a lot of doubles," Pelphrey said. "It's some good cardio work."
The Pelphreys' son, Jaxson, will be a high school senior next year. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Jaxson specializes in baseball as a first baseman/designated hitter.
Though John Pelphrey is remembered as Kentucky's 1987 Mr. Basketball, he was a very good baseball pitcher in his days at Paintsville High School.
"Jaxson can hit it a little better than I could," John Pelphrey said. "Unfortunately, I could throw it a little better than he does. If you could put us together, you'd have had something. But he's an A-B student, just a great kid."
Pelphrey's daughter, Grace, is the aspiring basketball player in the family. John Pelphrey is spending his afternoons helping to coach the 5-11 freshman when she works out at her school.
"She's a lot like I was (as a player)," Pelphrey said. "She can shoot it, she can handle it pretty well, sees the floor, will make the right pass."
In the early 2000s, when Pelphrey and Kentucky Wildcats women's hoops coach Matthew Mitchell were both assistants at Florida, they became friends. Can Grace become good enough to play for Mitchell at UK?
"It's a little too soon to say with a freshman," John Pelphrey said. "But I would be remiss if I didn't say that is her goal."
Over two separate stints, Pelphrey logged 10 years as a Florida assistant. He helped Donovan create the Gators' golden era of basketball. Though he did not get a chance to replace his mentor, Pelphrey said he has no ill will toward the school or Foley.
"What an amazing run," Pelphrey said. "My relationship with Billy, it's like a brother. Jeremy Foley, I've been able to call him in professional situations. When other programs called me, he stepped into that gap and did that for me. So I'm grateful."
Still, Pelphrey must now figure out how to relaunch his career. Rick Pitino, for whom Pelphrey played while becoming an Unforgettable at UK, has been generous in reaching out to him with advice on how to do that, the ex-Cat says.
As a head coach, Pelphrey has some achievements. He went into a rebuilding situation at South Alabama and produced an NCAA Tournament team (2006) in four years. At Arkansas, he won an NCAA tourney game (2008) and signed a recruiting class (2011) that had four prospects ranked in the Rivals 150.
Still, after going 69-59 in four seasons with the Hogs, Pelphrey was fired.
The late Royce Waltman, the former Indiana State head coach, famously observed that coaches fired for losing have "leprosy" when it comes to subsequent hiring decisions.
"I don't dwell on that a whole lot," Pelphrey said. "For me, I just focus on what I can control. I believe I will get another chance as a college head coach. It's my job to be the best prepared I can be when I do."