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Friday February 8, 2013 UF coaches become UPS pitchmen for star director

Updated: 9:19am, February 8

Billy and PytkaGAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Logistically speaking, the timing wasn’t great.

The Florida coaching staff was still processing the fallout from an 80-69 blowout loss the night before in Arkansas -- UF’s first loss of the Southeastern Conference basketball season -- when they took a timeout Wednesday afternoon for some moonlighting.

Gators coach Billy Donovan got the starring role and his assistants bit parts in a fancy UPS commercial shot at the team's basketball complex under the direction of accomplished filmmaker Joe Pytka, whose nickname is the “King of Cannes” for all the awards he’s won there.  

You may not have heard of Pytka (pictured right with Donovan), but you’ve seen his work on videos with Michael Jackson (“Dirty Diana” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”). In 1987, his Partnership for a Drug-Free America commercial, “This Is Your Brain, This is Your Brain on Drugs,” (below) took on iconic status about the same time his 1989 motion picture “Let It Ride,” starring Richard Dreyfus, became a cult classic.

A year later, on behalf of McDonald's, Pytka pitted Michael Jordan against Larry Bird in maybe the most famous H-O-R-S-E game in history (also below), and in 1996 partnered with Jordan again -- along with Bugs Bunny, among others -- in directing the motion picture “Space Jam.”

[Yeah, we got the trailer below, too]

UPS logoSo there Pytka was Wednesday, in the men’s basketball conference room, playing maestro for Donovan and his staff amid a banter of logistics after a UPS delivery man -- played by true-blue (make that brown) Gainesville UPS driver Wyndell Jenkins -- drops off a package.

“They were all great,” Pytka said. “And Billy Donovan is fabulous.”

If you’ve seen the UPS commercial that breaks down Doug Flutie’s famous “Hail Mary” against Miami, you may get the idea how detailed this 30-second spot -- which required a crew of 21 -- will be. But in the age of Internet and social media, the four-hour shoot wasn’t limited to guys sitting around a table.

Donovan also did some breakout interviews (shot free throws, too) for montages that will show up on UPS home page, on Facebook, promos, etc.

Pytka, 74, is a huge basketball fan, having actually played a season -- “One bad year,” he said. “I sucked, we sucked.” -- at the University of Pittsburgh.

Over the years, he established a rapport working with athletes and managed to bring out the best in front of the type of cameras they’re not normally used to.

“The challenge is to get them to express themselves in an authoritative manner and capture their personality,” he said. “They just saw the script for the first time today, but we shot it in fragments to keep everyone comfortable. We’ll patch it together.”

And it will be really good.

“It was pretty cool,” Donovan said. “And he’s a great guy.”

Pytka had some glowing things to say about Donovan, too. Not just Billy the Actor, but Billy the Coach. Pytka has shots pieces with the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight, and found Donovan every bit as enlightening when it came to articulating his coaching and teaching philosophies in the one-on-one segments.

“He was unbelievable,” Pytka said, “I want him to come coach the Lakers.”

Logistically speaking, let’s not go there.




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