Donovan trying to get out of Magic contract
GAINESVILLE, Fla. ” Billy Donovan’s NBA coaching career might end up being a whole lot shorter than his pro playing career ” and that didn’t last very long.
Donovan is trying to void the five-year, $27.5 million contract he signed last week with the Orlando Magic in hopes of returning to the Florida Gators, a person familiar with the negotiations said Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Earlier Monday, the Magic said Donovan was “conflicted” about his decision to leave the two-time NCAA champions. The NBA team also said talks were continuing regarding his contract.
“While Central Florida, the Orlando Magic and Billy were energized with the announcement of his contract signing on Friday, we know there was a different feeling in Gainesville and people have been tugging at him since that time,” the Magic said in a statement.
“Billy is conflicted with those emotions and the opportunity he has ahead in Orlando and in the NBA. We’ve had numerous conversations and a personal visit in Gainesville with Billy over the last 48 hours, and we have a commitment from him that the dialogue between us will continue.”
FoxSports.com, citing two anonymous sources, first reported Sunday that Donovan was having second thoughts about coaching the Magic and approached both sides about getting out of the deal. According to one of the sources, the Magic forced Donovan to make a rash decision.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Monday that Donovan had been released from his contract with the NBA team, and that the Magic had renewed their search to replace Brian Hill.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said he had been advised to not talk about the situation, a possible indication that Donovan was trying to return to Gainesville.
“On advice of counsel, I cannot comment and will not,” Foley said.
Donovan did not return repeated calls for comment.
He led the Gators to consecutive national titles the past two seasons and was slated to sign a seven-year deal worth approximately $3.5 million annually with Florida. The deal was nearly finalized when he agreed to coach the Magic.
Donovan, who played 44 games with the New York Knicks, said last week that he had always been intrigued by the NBA. He said Orlando was the perfect situation because it was an up-and-coming team and close to home.
Donovan, 42, agreed to the deal with Orlando on Thursday, one day after the Magic met with former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy about the job. Van Gundy, who also interviewed for coaching vacancies in Charlotte, Indiana and Sacramento in recent weeks, might not be available for long; he had a second interview with Sacramento’s ownership group in Las Vegas on Saturday.
The Gators contacted Virginia Commonwealth coach Anthony Grant soon after Donovan’s decision. Foley had been scheduled to meet with Grant on Saturday in Richmond, Va., but the meeting never took place, and Grant said Sunday that he hadn’t been offered the job.
If the Magic lose Donovan, it would be another setback for a franchise beset by them.
Orlando lost dominant center Shaquille O’Neal, who went on to win four NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
The team signed guard Grant Hill in 2000 to a seven-year, $93 million contract. Hill missed most of his first four seasons because of recurring ankle problems, and has played just 200 regular-season games with Orlando.
And the Magic drafted Spain’s Fran Vazquez in the first round in 2005, then Vazquez refused to play in the United States.
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