|Gators have few coaching options without Donovan|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 May 2007 14:29|
Now, the two-time defending national champions seemingly have fewer choices.
Donovan agreed to a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the NBA's Orlando Magic on Thursday, according to an NBA official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't finalized, and left the Gators without a coach for the first time in more than 11 years.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley probably will consider replacing Donovan with assistant coach Larry Shyatt or Virginia Commonwealth coach Anthony Grant.
Shyatt, who was a head coach at Wyoming and Clemson, has spent the last three years on Donovan's staff. Grant was a longtime assistant under Donovan who led VCU to the NCAA tournament in his first season.
Had Donovan taken the Kentucky job in April, several others may have been options, including new Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie and new Arkansas coach John Pelphrey, a former Donovan assistant.
``There's always a next,'' Florida president Bernie Machen said at the Southeastern Conference's annual spring meeting. ``Billy Donovan has been here for 11 years, won two national championships. He's been a great ambassador for the University of Florida. We'll always love Billy Donovan, whether he's here 11 years or 21 years.''
Machen, however, said he was unaware that Donovan had accepted the Magic job.
``I haven't lost him,'' Machen said. ``He's still my coach. ... I don't think Florida has to worry about who our next coach is yet. We still have a good one in Coach Donovan.''
Florida fans likely will blame Machen and Foley for losing Donovan, citing a failure to get a long-term contract signed. The three had been working on the new deal since March 2006.
Donovan, who was 261-103 at Florida, said Tuesday that the contract was being delayed by the school.
``I have trust in Jeremy and Dr. Machen,'' Donovan said. ``Really, it's not in my hands. Really, it's in the University of Florida's hands. I understand there's a process that the school's going to go through. For me, it's just more than anything else, letting them take care of it and then getting it done when the time is right for them.''
Foley said Tuesday the contract was ``very, very close'' to being completed.
Machen, though, said it actually had been finalized.
``It's done. It's been done,'' Machen said.
Why wasn't it signed?
``You don't know Florida,'' he said. ``Ask Billy that. Billy will tell you the contract has been done a long time.''
Donovan spurned a chance to take over the tradition-rich program at Kentucky. He also declined an official interview with the Memphis Grizzlies after having an informal discussion with team owner Michael Heisley.
It didn't take long for him to agree to take over the Magic, a team built around All-Star center Dwight Howard and point guard Jameer Nelson.
Speculation is that Donovan grew tired of recruiting, the thing that helped him turn a mediocre basketball program into a national power at Florida.
Donovan spent the last 11 years in Gainesville, putting down roots with his wife and four children while building a program with players like Jason Williams, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. He had two years remaining on a contract worth $1.7 million annually.
He could have signed a new deal worth about $2 million a year last summer, but he didn't want to send the wrong message to players who turned down NBA riches to stay in school.