|The latest Magic trick: Van Gundy is the coach|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 07 June 2007 10:27|
This time, it's Stan Van Gundy. Billy Donovan says he feels ``terrible'' about all the confusion but insists Florida is where he belongs.
The Magic finally resolved their coaching quandary Thursday, ending a rough two weeks in which they fired Brian Hill, pulled off the Donovan coup, then watched the bottom drop out on nearly everything.
They were lucky to reel in Van Gundy - their second choice from the beginning - because the Sacramento Kings were pursuing the former Miami Heat coach.
The Magic said Wednesday that would allow Donovan to back out of his 5-year, $27.5 million deal, about three days hours after news broke that he had changed his mind.
``I feel terrible about it. (The Magic are) a great organization,'' Donovan said in Gainesville. ``They have great ownership, and they're great people. I feel sorry and have apologized. It was my decision; it was my mistake. I have to take responsibility for that, which I'm trying to do.''
Donovan was apologetic - to fans, his family, the Magic and Florida - but said no one from the Gators pressured him. He said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley wouldn't even talk about the situation because Donovan was under contract with Orlando.
``When I made the decision, the next morning it just did not feel right for me,'' Donovan said. ``I've got too much respect for the Magic, for the organization, for their team, for their fans, to continue on.''
Van Gundy coached the Miami Heat for more than two seasons, resigning last year but remaining with the team as an adviser to coach Pat Riley.
He was under contract with the Heat for another year, and the Magic had to give Miami undisclosed compensation, possibly a second-round pick in this month's NBA draft. Orlando had three picks, all second-rounders, in the June 28 draft while Miami had no second-round selections.
Van Gundy did not immediately return a message left at his home Thursday, but the Magic planned a news conference later in the day.
``Stan enjoyed tremendous success during his tenure with the Heat,'' general manager Otis Smith said in a written statement. ``He has a great basketball mind, tremendous respect around the league and will get the most out of our players. Stan was sought after by many teams this summer and we feel very proud to welcome him to the Magic family.''
The Magic said they had a ``legal right to hold Billy to the contract he signed,'' but let him go because he wanted to be elsewhere.
Neither the team nor Donovan would discuss specifics of the breakup, but Donovan acknowledged he was prevented from coaching in the NBA. He didn't specify for how long, but reports have circulated it was five years.
``I think it's been out there pretty much about the whole NBA thing down the road,'' Donovan said. ``That was something we both talked about, and that was something I was glad to accept because I knew in my heart that's not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be at Florida.''
Van Gundy also was considered by the Charlotte Bobcats and Indiana Pacers, but those teams hired other coaches.
that season around.
Now, the two will meet four times a season as opponents in the Southeast Division.
``It'll be exciting to go against a coach that I feel really helped me develop to this point and, as always, there's that mutual respect,'' Wade said this week. ``So best of luck to Stan and his family and hopefully he gets what he wants and what he deserves.''
Van Gundy's brother Jeff spent parts of 11 seasons coaching the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. Last month, Jeff was fired from the Rockets. Their father, Bill, was a successful college coach in upstate New York.
``Stan's a guy who knows the game. You can see that from his whole family line, from his father to his brother to himself,'' Wade said. ``I know it's something he loves to do. So for him to be back ... it's great.''
Donovan and Jeff Van Gundy are close friends because the Florida coach played under him in college at Providence. The two even conferred as Donovan wrestled over the Magic decision.
Van Gundy resigned as the Heat's coach 21 games into the 2005-06 season, citing personal and family reasons. Riley took over, leading the Heat to their first championship.
Van Gundy was 112-73 at Miami and in 2004-05 won the Southeast Division and made the Eastern Conference finals. The team won 59 games that year, second best in franchise history.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.