|Donovan gone from Orlando; Magic reportedly hire Van Gundy|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 06 June 2007 22:57|
The Magic finally made it official Wednesday - 72 hours after news broke that Donovan had cold feet. They let him out of a five-year, $27.5 million deal but didn't disclose terms of the breakup.
``I realized that, in my heart, I belonged in college basketball,'' Donovan said late Wednesday in a written statement. ``As soon as I realized that, I contacted the Magic immediately to let them know.''
Donovan's indecision apparently didn't hurt the hard-luck Magic. Their future success likely will be entrusted to Stan Van Gundy, with ESPN and the Orlando Sentinel reporting late Wednesday night that the former Miami Heat coach had accepted the head coaching job.
The current adviser to Pat Riley, Van Gundy had said publicly he'd love the Orlando job. It was unclear what compensation Miami received in exchange for releasing Van Gundy from the final year of his contract. The Magic could have offered one or more of its three second-round draft picks, Nos. 39, 44 and 54. Orlando has no first-round pick in the upcoming draft, and the Heat have only one pick, No. 20 overall.
The Magic-Donovan romance was a carousel act that stunned fans twice - with his Thursday hiring, then an out-of-nowhere weekend reversal.
Donovan walked out of his first NBA job after just six days.
``Although this has been a difficult time for everyone, for which I am profoundly sorry, in my heart I know that this is the right thing for the Magic and for me,'' Donovan said. ``It's my admiration for the whole Magic organization that led me to this course of action. I believe that the Magic has a great future ahead of them, and I wish them all the best.''
The Magic said in a written statement Wednesday that Donovan's hiring proved ``we are committed to winning a championship.''
``We have the legal right to hold Billy to the contract he signed, but with him having a change of heart about leaving college basketball, we want him at the University of Florida,'' the Magic said. ``We have granted him permission to break his commitment and return to the Gators.''
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, reached late Wednesday by The Associated Press, said: ``It's great news for the Gators.''
Foley withheld further comment until a Thursday morning news conference.
Magic fans met Donovan with rousing applause at a nationally televised news conference Friday as he replaced Brian Hill, who was fired after two losing seasons in his second stint with the team.
Donovan said he agonized over the jump to the NBA, but wanted a new challenge. He promised to bring passion to the pros and saw in the Magic a young team with enough talent and salary cap room to succeed where most college coaches failed.
Donovan always wanted to try the NBA, and the Magic job was perfect: it was lucrative, and his family could even stay in Gainesville while he worked 115 miles away. Coming off the first consecutive national championships in 15 years, his stock would never be higher.
``I have enormous respect for the Magic - including (owner Rich DeVos' family), the management, the team and the fans,'' Donovan said. ``In these circumstances, it would have been entirely unfair to the Magic and their fans to have continued on.''
Donovan is the most successful coach in Florida history, getting to three national championship games in just 11 years. He first left Florida after the school lost its top six scorers, four of them juniors who opted to enter the upcoming NBA draft after the Gators' second title.
Donovan was set to sign a seven-year contract worth approximately $3.5 million annually with Florida, a deal that was nearly finished when he agreed to coach the Magic.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long contributed to this report from Gainesville.