NBA riches lure Donovan from national champs

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Florida coach opts for opportunity with Orlando Magic.

ORLANDO -- Rich history wasn't enough to lure Billy Donovan away from Florida. In the end, it was just riches.

Donovan will have plenty of them after he was hired to coach the Orlando Magic on Thursday. The team confirmed the hiring Thursday night and scheduled a news conference for Friday morning.

Donovan agreed to a five-year deal paying $5.5 million annually, an official in the NBA said.

"Billy Donovan is a winner," general manager Otis Smith said in a statement. "We feel he is the right person to develop and maximize the talents of our players. We look forward to Billy leading us to the next level."

The Magic scheduled a news conference for Friday morning.

Donovan has been the subject of speculation since the Gators' second straight NCAA championship in April. He turned down an offer to coach Kentucky, whose storied program launched his career as an assistant in 1990, and was more recently linked to the Memphis Grizzlies' vacant coaching job.

He seemed to squash those rumors after turning down the Kentucky position, proclaiming, "I love the University of Florida."

But Orlando, about 115 miles south of Gainesville, proved too strong to resist. The Magic job pays more than twice Donovan's $1.7 million annual deal with the Gators.

School president Bernie Machen said he didn't believe Donovan had yet accepted the Orlando job, but there were no hard feelings if he had.

"There's always a next," Machen said at the Southeastern Conference's annual spring meeting in Destin, Fla. "Billy Donovan has been here for 11 years, won two national championships. He's been a great ambassador for the University of Florida. We'll always love Billy Donovan, whether he's here 11 years or 21 years."

Both Donovan and the school had said all along they were negotiating a contract extension. Machen said Thursday the deal was basically done, just not signed.

Donovan replaces Brian Hill, who was fired after two consecutive losing seasons. Hill's ouster followed the Magic's first playoff appearance in four years, which ended in the first round against Detroit.

Grizzlies hire Iavaroni

Marc Iavaroni was hired as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday after a miserable season that sent the team to the bottom of the NBA.

Iavaroni, a 17-year NBA veteran as player or assistant coach, is regarded as one of the league's top assistants. He spent the past five seasons with the Phoenix Suns.

Tony Barone, the Grizzlies' former director of player personnel, was appointed interim coach last season when Memphis fired Mike Fratello with the team at 6-24.

Pacers opt for O'Brien

Jim O'Brien was hired Thursday as coach of the Indiana Pacers, who turned to an NBA veteran in hopes of reviving a team that missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade and has been beset by turmoil.

The announcement ends a five-week search that began with the firing of Rick Carlisle.

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