Magic won’t hold Donovan to deal
NOTEBOOK Team lets coach out of pact, enabling him to return to Florida job
Billy Donovan is out as the coach of the Orlando Magic, and his cold feet will cost him.
Donovan loses out on a fiveyear, $27.5 million deal and might have stained a clean reputation built on two winning back-to-back NCAA championships at Florida.
Donovan walked out of his first NBA job after only six days to return to the Gators, whom he led to the last two national titles.
‘‘I realized in less than 24 hours after signing a contract with the Magic that I had made a mistake that had nothing to do with the Magic,’’ Donovan said in a statement. ‘‘Instead, I realized that, in my heart, I belonged in college basketball. As soon as I realized that, I contacted the Magic immediately to let them know.’’
News broke late Sunday that Donovan wanted out, but the Magic didn’t allow it until late Wednesday. ESPN.com reported one of the conditions of the broken deal is that Donovan can’t coach in the NBA for the next five years.
‘‘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.’’
Reached at home, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said: ‘‘It’s great news for the Gators.’’ He withheld further comment until a news conference today.
The Magic is expected to pursue former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy in his place, but the team is competing with the Sacramento Kings for his services.
FINLEY FINALLY IN FINALS: Perhaps it was all the cameras in his face that made San Antonio Spurs swingman Michael Finley forget basic geography.
Answering a question about LeBron James, Finley said the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar had done a lot for the ‘‘state of Cleveland. . . . Excuse me, the city of Cleveland. I’m a little excited, too.’’
Given that it took Finley 12 seasons to get to the NBA Finals, that excitement is understandable.
On a team loaded with NBA Finals veterans, Finley is playing for his first title. And because he grew up watching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen lead the Bulls to six championships, he didn’t think it would take this long.
‘‘When I was growing up in Chicago, I thought this was something that everybody experienced, playing in the Finals or just being part of the Finals,’’ said Finley, who played at Proviso East and spent most of his NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks.
Finley, who moved into the Spurs’ starting lineup late in the regular season and has averaged 13.1 points during the playoffs, said he never gave up hope that he finally would get his chance.
‘‘I knew my time would come,’’ he said. ‘‘I thought it would be in Dallas. But I’ve always had a feeling that my time would come, and better late than never.’’
LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO: A simulation by the video-game company EA Sports says the Spurs will win their fourth NBA title by beating the Cavaliers in six games. Spurs star Tim Duncan will be the most valuable player of the Finals, just as he was in their previous three triumphs.
The simulation was wrong last season. It picked the Mavericks to beat the Miami Heat in seven games, but the Heat won in six.