How Arcidiacono almost played for Billy Donovan at Florida


On a night when voices across the association lauded the Bulls’ hire of Billy Donovan as the franchise’s next head coach, Ryan Arcidiacono might win the award for most cryptic endorsement.

“Can’t wait to finally play for coach Donovan!” the Bulls guard wrote on Twitter.

“Finally.” It begs the question: What relationship could Arcidiacono, who attended Villanova and has spent all three of his NBA seasons with the Bulls, have with Donovan, longtime Florida Gators coach turned Oklahoma City lead man?

Funny enough, Arcidiacono answered that very question on an episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast back in December 2019 — over nine months before Donovan’s hiring, while the Bulls were looking to right a 9-17 start to the season under then-coach Jim Boylen. 

According to Arcidiacono, Donovan recruited him hard when the former was a four-star point guard coming out of Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, Pa. nearly a decade ago. And apparently, Donovan made a compelling case.

“I was about to commit to Florida when Billy Donovan was the head coach,” Arcidiacono told K.C. Johnson on the podcast of his recruiting process, which eventually ended with him playing for Villanova from 2012-2016. “(Villanova) coach (Jay) Wright didn’t really recruit me till the very, very end. Villanova was the last school to offer me.

“I took my visit to Florida, and I told Billy Donovan that I want to come here. Then Villanova’s Midnight Madness, the start of the basketball season, was the following weekend and my mom threw the kitchen sink. Brought all my family, all my friends… It was her sign that like, this is what you can have if you go to Villanova, for every single game. I couldn’t pass it up. Eventually it was the best school for me and the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.”


Donovan shouldn’t take that decision personally. Both of Arcidiacono’s parents attended Villanova, where his father Joe was a football player. And his younger brother, Chris, followed in his footsteps by committing there to play basketball in May 2019. Chris appeared in eight games for Villanova as a freshman in 2019-20.

All of which is to say, ’Nova runs in the Arcidiacono family's blood.

“It wasn’t the best, but he really understood it,” Arcidiacono said of the call he made to inform Donovan of his ultimate decision. “Billy Donovan and my AAU coach developed a really solid relationship having been from Long Island, New York. They actually went to the same grade school. He kinda knew and understood. 

“There’s a lot of funny stories about when I was on my trip and how my mom started to cry when Billy Donovan said, ‘Don’t worry, we make it a family atmosphere. He’ll be here for Christmas, he’ll have family.’ My mom was like ‘I don’t want him away from me for Christmas.’ Shout out to my mom and sister for crying a ton and making me go to Villanova.”

Indeed, Arcidiacono’s run at Villanova was wildly successful. He started all four seasons there, racked up the fourth-most assists in program history and helped lead the Wildcats to a national title in 2016. Hard to have too many regrets, there.

And looking ahead, Arcidiacono appears excited about the Donovan hire for the Bulls. He has every reason to be.

“Coach Donovan is an unbelievable coach,” Arcidiacono said. “They were coming off two national championships as well (in 2006 and 2007). It was tough to say no to him because he is such a big-time coach and developed players to play in the NBA and high level overseas. I don’t know if he’ll remember it, but it will always stick with me.”

The Bulls are hoping that translates.

RELATED: Zach LaVine's reaction to Bulls' Billy Donovan hire caught on livestream

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