An unexpected coup for Magic, and good for Donovan too
I wasn't sure Billy Donovan had it in him to leave Florida. Not after spurning Kentucky and not after giving his blessing to his four star underclassmen to abandon his program, essentially holding their hand through it as they wept, and then planning on staying put in the aftermath.
No Florida Gators fan should begrudge him for taking what is rumored to be a $6 million dollar deal. He leaves on top, following repeat championships, with his legacy intact.
Most shocking of all is that the Orlando Magic ponied up the cash to complete this transaction and woo Donovan away. This franchise has done nothing but take the safe and often stupid route time after time over the past decade.
I've seen this all up close, and everyone, from front office to fan base, is guilty of it.
This is indeed a magical turn of events for Orlando basketball. Kudos to GM Otis Smith, who becomes a hero. Bob Vander Weide, Dave Twardzik, all those guys who convinced owner Rich DeVos to open his wallet and get Donovan to venture south from Gainesville - if I were in town, I'd invite you all down to CityWalk to celebrate. A round on me.
You've guaranteed yourselves not only a new arena but a winner as well. Consider what Orlando has done since losing Shaquille O'Neal; there has been a player mutiny led by Penny Hardaway; a 3-1 playoff choking against Detroit that came after the best player to come through the city since the Diesel declared victory a foregone conclusion; they hired a hockey guy, John Weisbrod, to run the team; they gambled on Steve Francis and thankfully were able to fleece the Knicks to remedy that; they re-hired Hill, who cultivated little improvement.
The only smart thing they did was draft Dwight Howard, who will benefit so much from Donovan that I expect to see astronomical improvement by the time 2008 comes around.
Orlando has, in one single move, become relevant again. And even if Donovan fails, conventional wisdom is that he can always return to the college game the way mentor Rick Pitino did. He has had a nice re-birth, no?
But he won't fail. He's walking into a wonderful situation and was smart enough to recognize that. The Magic made his choice all the easier by ponying up the jack. I honestly never felt they had it in them. The climate has changed. Orlando wants to be more than mediocre.
The only loser in all this is the game of college basketball, specifically the University of Florida, losing a man who now becomes a living legend. They will suffer but ultimately will rise again thanks to the spirit Donovan created, one that proved you can win at a football school.
Congratulations, Billy. You made the right choice. See you soon.
- by Tony Mejia, CBS SportsLine.com