ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Billy Donovan is out in Orlando, and his
cold feet will cost him.
Donovan loses out on a $5.5 million annual deal, and may have
stained a clean reputation built on two straight championships at
The Gators coach walked out of his first NBA job after just six
days to return to Gainesville, where he won the last two national
titles. News broke late Sunday that Donovan wanted out, but the
Magic didn't allow it until late Wednesday
"As our signing of Billy Donovan showed, 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 in a statement. "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
The Magic are expected to pursue former Heat coach Stan Van
Gundy in his place, but are competing for him with the Sacramento
The Magic-Donovan romance was a carousel act that stunned fans
twice - with his Thursday hiring, then an out-of-nowhere weekend
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: five years, $27.5 million, 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.
The 42-year-old took the jump. But in the end, the builder of a
college power couldn't leave Gators glory behind.
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.