Pardon my French, but WTF!?
Dave Curtis and Lynn Hoppes Sentinel Staff Writer
The Orlando Magic today will allow Billy Donovan out of his 5-year, $27.5 million contract that he signed on Friday.
"It's over," said a source close to the situation.
Donovan had reservations about leaving the Florida Gators for the NBA on Friday and spent all weekend trying to find a way to get out of his contract. On Saturday, Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith went to Gainesville to try to convince Donovan to honor the deal. Smith talked with Donovan again on Sunday, and so did Magic President Bob Vander Weide.
Unless Donovan wakes up today and changes his mind, the Magic will let him go, the source said.
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.
Messages left with UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley on Sunday were not returned. 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. It's also unclear where the Magic will be turning to now, but the second choice behind Donovan had always been ex-Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy.