|Donovan's indecision is latest blow for snakebitten Magic|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 05 June 2007 09:54|
Shaquille O'Neal left a decade ago, and the Magic got nothing in return. Tracy McGrady left three years ago, and Orlando got little more than a headache for him.
Now Billy Donovan is poised to leave after less than five days on the job.
Donovan's future remained uncertain Tuesday, with the coach of two-time NCAA champion Florida apparently having a change of heart and wanting to return to the Gators.
His exit would be more bad news for a snakebitten franchise that's already had more than its share in less than two decades of existence. The Magic have lost two stars, twice hired and fired their winningest coach and had a first-round draft pick simply refuse to show up.
Orlando didn't make its first playoff appearance until 1994, after joining the NBA in 1989. But things turned around quickly on O'Neal's shoulders, as he and Penny Hardaway led the team to the NBA finals in 1995 and a conference championship a year later.
The Magic had 107 wins in those two seasons. But O'Neal wasn't happy, and declined what the Magic said was a more lucrative offer to join the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996.
Shaq won three straight NBA championships with the Lakers. The Magic haven't won a playoff series since.
Not until 2000 did they replace O'Neal with marquee talent, signing two of the most coveted free agents in McGrady and Grant Hill. But Hill's injured left ankle limited him to 37 games in his first four seasons, and McGrady's load grew heavier each year. He finally got so frustrated with the franchise that he vowed to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract in 2004.
The Magic didn't give him the chance, dealing the disgruntled star to the Houston Rockets along with three other players for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato. McGrady was just the fourth scoring champion in NBA history to be traded, and the first in nearly 30 years.
Francis lasted just a season and a half with the Magic, a high-scoring locker room distraction who got two suspensions for kicking a photographer and refusing to leave the bench in a blowout.
Orlando shipped him to the New York Knicks last season for forward Trevor Ariza and a bundle of salary cap room, and the team immediately improved.
Fran Vazquez, the Magic's top draft pick in 2005 and 11th overall, was expected to make an immediate impact but surprised the club after the draft by choosing to remain in Europe. Vazquez, a Spaniard, said he was ``afraid to adapt to the American way of life.'' The embarrassment left the team with lingering concern about drafting foreign talent.
The Magic still have Hill, but he often is injured and is considering retirement. Hill just finished his first healthy season since arriving in Orlando seven years ago. He has played in only about a third of the Magic's 574 regular-season games, and just once made the All-Star team, since leaving the Detroit Pistons.
Three years before Hill and McGrady arrived, the Magic dumped their other Hill.
Struggling after O'Neal left, the team in 1997 allowed Hardaway to orchestrate a coup ousting coach Brian Hill, the team's most successful leader. Within two years Hardaway was gone. Orlando dealt him to the Phoenix Suns in 1999 because the guard said he was underappreciated.
The Magic brought Hill back in 2005, and this season he led the team to its first playoff appearance in four years.
It wasn't enough, general manager Otis Smith said, so he was dismissed again.