Chicago Sun-Times

Magic won’t hold Dono­van to deal

NOTE­BOOK Team lets coach out of pact, en­abling him to re­turn to Florida job

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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.

AP

 ?? DOUGLAS C. PIZAC~AP ?? The Spurs’ Michael Fin­ley en­ters the NBA Fi­nals av­er­ag­ing 13.1 points dur­ing the play­offs.
DOUGLAS C. PIZAC~AP The Spurs’ Michael Fin­ley en­ters the NBA Fi­nals av­er­ag­ing 13.1 points dur­ing the play­offs.

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