ORLANDO, Fla. (MCT) - Billy Donovan sent seismic shock waves from Gainesville to Orlando on Thursday, taking over as Magic head coach and leaving the national champion Florida Gators without the architect of their dynasty.
After a whirlwind courtship that lasted about a week, Donovan was hired by the Magic as head coach just two months after leading Florida to the second of back-to-back NCAA titles - and mere days before Florida was set to announce that he had agreed contractually to extend his stay as the Gators' head coach.
Donovan, 42, will be introduced as the Magic franchise's eighth coach in its history at an 11 a.m. EDT news conference on Friday at RDV Sportsplex. He then will hold a 4 p.m. news conference in Gainesville.
Donovan signed a five-year contract with the Magic, thought to be worth $27.5 million - or an average of $5.5 million per season. He replaces Brian Hill, who was fired after consecutive losing seasons.
While Donovan had said in recent weeks that coaching in the NBA continued to "intrigue" him, he also maintained that he was waiting on Florida to finalize his contract extension. He already had a contract with the Gators until 2009, but the school - in a common practice for elite college coaches - was working on adding years to the deal.
Donovan stood to make as much as $3 million in the first year - a raise from $1.7 million. The deal would then escalate to $3.75 million in guaranteed money by the conclusion of the contract in 2013-14, according to ESPN .com.
UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday that "our contract (with Donovan) was a done deal. We just had to go through some administrative channels before we could announce it.
"We were going to announce it next week. But this Magic offer came along this week, and Billy was intrigued. Believe me, our contract situation had nothing to do with Billy's decision. He's taking this job because the time is right for him."
Foley said he felt the Magic also had perfect timing. Four of Donovan's Gators starters had declared for the upcoming NBA draft.
"If this had been three years ago, he doesn't take the job," Foley said. "The Magic hit him at the perfect time. I think he felt that if he were ever going to do it, now was the time.
"Billy never made a secret that the NBA has always intrigued him. The fact that this NBA job is in Florida and that he thinks he can win in Orlando were big factors. I also think the college lifestyle and the recruiting had begun to wear on him."
Last week the Magic fired Hill as coach after the club finished 40-42 and was swept in the NBA playoffs by the Detroit Pistons.
The pursuit of Donovan began almost immediately.
Publicly, the Magic's courtship and hiring of Donovan were cloaked in secrecy and some confusion. The Magic would not comment on their coaching search, and it appeared Donovan was merely playing it close to the vest, weighing his options.
Landing Donovan - the hottest coaching commodity in college basketball - seemed like a long shot for the Magic.
Speculation about his future seemed to die down after he rejected overtures from the University of Kentucky in April.
Donovan even said earlier Wednesday in Destin, where he was attending the Southeastern Conference meetings, that he not talked with the Magic. But it might have been semantics.
Two league officials had told the Sentinel that the Magic had previously contacted Donovan's agent, Lonnie Cooper.
According to those with knowledge of Donovan's hiring, he left Destin on Wednesday and met with Magic officials later that night in Orlando.
Donovan met with Magic General Manager Otis Smith, team president Bob Vander Weide and Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins.
Having received the Magic's offer on his 42nd birthday, Donovan told the Magic he wanted to sleep on it and returned home to Gainesville. After poring over the contract, he called the Magic on Thursday morning. . . . but to say he needed more time. About 1:30 p.m., Donovan called back to accept.
He gathered his Gators team later and told it of his decision.
"Billy Donovan is a winner," Smith, the Magic GM, said in a statement released by the team Thursday night. "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."
Donovan will not have any front-office responsibilities. When he interviewed informally several weeks ago with the Memphis Grizzlies, it was reported that he had demanded to be the general manager as well as coach.
Donovan has never coached in the NBA, although he played briefly for the New York Knicks in 1987.
Donovan, the longest-tenured coach in the Southeastern Conference, had revived UF basketball during his 11-year stay. He took the Gators to the national-championship game in 2000, losing to Michigan State, before UF broke through to win its first title by beating UCLA in 2006.
The Gators' 2007 victory over Ohio State in the national-title game not only gave the school back-to-back championships - the first time a Division I program pulled off the feat since Duke in 1991 and 1992 - but it meant basketball was no longer overshadowed by Gators football.
"Billy Donovan has been here 11 years and has won two national championships," Florida President Bernie Machen told ESPN.com on Thursday. "We'll always love Billy Donovan, whether he was here 11 years or 21 years. I don't think the University of Florida has to worry about who their next coach is."
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
(c) 2007, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.