Sources: Lawyers Working On Getting Billy Donovan Out Of His NBA Contract

Billy Donovan is not expected to change his mind -- again -- and will stay at Florida after agreeing to become the Orlando Magic's coach on Friday.

The matter is in the hands of attorneys for the team and for Donovan and his agent, Lonnie Cooper.

"It's up to the lawyers," said a person who has spoken directly to Donovan, who signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal to coach Orlando.

The legal beagles were apparently working on voiding Donovan's contract.

The Magic would not comment on the situation Monday afternoon, but they are looking for another coach, with former Miami Heat Stan Van Gundy figuring to be the top candidate.

They had issued a statement early Monday, though, saying, " 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.

"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.''

Apparently, they also are in conversation with other candidates to take the job. In addition to Van Gundy, the Magic had contacted representatives for P.J. Carlesimo before Donovan had accepted the job.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has reported that Van Gundy is on the verge of being offered the Magic coaching job.

Van Gundy told the Sentinel on Monday morning that he couldn't comment on the situation. However, a source told the Sentinel that Billy Donovan and Van Gundy were the only two people interviewed for the job. So, once the Donovan situation started to unravel, it was clear that Van Gundy would rise to become the top choice.

Van Gundy is also in contention for the Sacramento Kings job. He met on Saturday in Las Vegas with the Kings ownership.

"I thought the interview went well and I expect to hear something from them today," Van Gundy told the Sun-Sentinel. "It won't necessarily be a decision, but I do expect to hear from Geoff (Petrie, the Kings president) today."

The Magic had tried to convince Donovan to change his mind after Cooper called a Magic official on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. to say that the Gators coach had second thoughts.

That kickstarted a long day of conversations between Donovan and General Manager Otis Smith, who went to Gainesville to speak to Donovan personally.

Louisville Coach Rick Pitino and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, close friends and Donovan confidantes, talked to Donovan over the weekend. It was not clear whether they were trying to talk Donovan into honoring his contract or just acting as sounding boards.

Donovan was so conflicted with his decision that Saturday he was acting very much like the Magic coach, calling to set up an interview for a prospective Magic assistant coaching candidate and asking Cooper if he would represent Larry Shyatt, a Gator assistant who Donovan had said he was bringing with him to Orlando.

Before Donovan accepted the job last week, almost everyone at Florida, from people on his staff to other NBA coaches to even his wife, told Donovan to go to the Magic -- but after Friday's emotional news conference in Gainesville, he started thinking he might have made a mistake. That was the first time he even mentioned there being a problem.

The Sentinel visited Donovan's house early this morning, and UF assistant basketball coach Larry Shyatt answered the door. He said Donovan would not comment.

"You guys can't talk to him now," Shyatt said.

UF spokesman Fred Demarest said Sunday night that the school would have no comment. Messages left for Magic officials -- Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins and General Manager Otis Smith -- were not returned.

Donovan was hired as Magic head coach Thursday and introduced in his new job Friday, the end of a weeklong Magic courtship. Donovan appeared confident in his decision in news conferences in Gainesville and in Orlando, but things changed.

Foley flew to Richmond, Va., on Saturday to interview Anthony Grant, the Virginia Commonwealth University coach. Grant is a former Gators assistant and the leading candidate to replace Donovan.

But that meeting never happened -- Foley flew away from Richmond after learning of Donovan's second thoughts before the athletic director even left the airport's grounds.

That's when the Magic's Smith leaped into action. He went up to Gainesville to try to convince Donovan he was making the right decision. But Donovan still was waffling.

That's why Grant, who was the front-runner and was looking to make $6 million over 5 years at Florida, issued a statement Sunday night saying he has had no in-person contact with UF officials and hasn't received an offer to be Florida's head coach.

"I have been contacted by the University of Florida regarding their coaching vacancy," the statement said. "I have not had any in-person contact with any Florida representative, nor have I been offered the job.

"At this point in time, I will have no further comment on this situation as my focus is on my responsibilities at VCU."

Grant, who emerged Thursday as the top and seemingly lone candidate to replace Donovan, spoke with several Rams recruits and their coaches Thursday and Friday to prepare them for his possible departures.

Donovan did not attend Florida's boys basketball camp, which started Sunday afternoon on campus. He was at home trying to find guidance on his future.

Several members of his staff, including Shyatt, ran the camp. In his news conferences Friday, Donovan said Shyatt would join him with the Magic. In fact, Donovan talked with the Magic about Shyatt's new contract that afternoon.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, reached at home early this morning, said he had heard nothing about Donovan possibly backing out of the deal. After learning of the report from a Sentinel reporter, Dyer said he still had no comment.

Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons, high-profile recruits from Lake Howell High School who signed with the Gators, had communicated with each other late Sunday night but indicated they had not heard from UF's coaching staff.

It's unclear whether the Magic will ask for a settlement to allow Donovan to break his contract.

Story Courtesy: The Orlando Sentinel & AP Wire Reports


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