June 6, 2007
ORLANDO, Fla. (cbssportsline.com/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 Florida.
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 conference.
The Magic are expected to pursue former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy in his place, but are competing for him with the Sacramento Kings.
The Magic-Donovan romance was a carousel act that stunned fans twice - with his Thursday hiring, then an out-of-nowhere weekend reversal.
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.
The Associated Press News Service