At Marshall, Donovan installed the fast-paced offense and defensive schemes employed by Pitino. A previously scheduled early season match-up pitted Marshall against Kentucky in December 1994. Before the game, Pitino advised his young protege to "try to whip Kentucky's ass, because we'll try to do the same to you. " Though he was warmly received by the Rupp Arena crowd, Donovan's team did not feel as welcome, losing 116–75. The rest of the season was more successful. Donovan's first Marshall squad doubled its win total from the previous year, earning an 18–9 record and winning the Southern Conference North Division title as Donovan was named the 1995 Southern Conference Coach of the Year. In Donovan's second season, 1995–96, the team went 17–11 and led the Southern Conference in scoring and three-point field goals. Donovan was also successful on the recruiting trail, convincing nationally sought prep star Jason Williams to decline scholarship offers from more established programs and remain in state to attend Marshall. Williams would later follow Donovan to Florida.