Donovan set to become Magic coach
Posted: Thursday May 31, 2007 3:57PM; Updated: Thursday May 31, 2007 6:28PM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida's Billy Donovan appears to on the verge of jumping along with his four junior stars to the NBA -- as the next coach of the Orlando Magic.
With a contract worth $5.5 to $6 million per year on the table, a Magic source informed SI.com on Thursday afternoon that an official announcement had tentatively been scheduled for Friday in Orlando.
Another Magic source indicated that the contract negotiations with Donovan were all but completed, and the organization was merely waiting for the coach's final approval of the deal, either later Thursday or early Friday. Donovan had returned to Gainesville on Thursday, apparently to mull over the offer.
Following the team's back-to-back national championship run in April, Donovan passed on an opportunity to take over at Kentucky, and had avoided accepting a long-term contract offer to remain with the Gators as the highest-paid coach in college basketball.
Gator players Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer were in Orlando on Thursday for a pre-draft media availability session that included the projected top 12 selections. Initial reports of Donovan's offer broke at the end of Noah's interview session, and the enigmatic forward remarked of his ex-coach, "He's about to eat a lot of hamburgers, a lot of filet mignons."
Noah offered Donovan his full support in jumping to the NBA, saying, "Regardless of what he does, I support him. To me he's always part of the Gator boys."
Later in the afternoon, following a video shoot for ESPN's draft-night coverage, Horford told SI.com that he was not stunned by the news. Horford had remained in Gainesville following the season to conduct his pre-draft workouts with Donovan and the Gators' staff, and said they had discussed the NBA issue approximately three weeks ago.
"Coach said to me then, 'If it's not the right situation, I'm fine in Florida, I like staying in Gainesville,' " Horford recalled. "But he also said, 'If it's the right situation, you never know.' "
Brewer, like his Gator brethren, did not express surprise: "I had a feeling; coach has been in college for 11 years, he did a lot for college basketball," Brewer told SI.com. "I thought he wanted a new challenge."