Magic close book on Donovan by hiring Van Gundy

Updated: June 8, 2007, 12:59 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orlando Magic have their man ... again.

This time, it's Stan Van Gundy. Billy Donovan says he feels "terrible" about all the confusion but insists Florida is where he belongs.

The Magic finally resolved their coaching quandary Thursday, ending a rough two weeks in which they fired Brian Hill, pulled off the Donovan coup, then watched the bottom drop out on nearly everything.

They were lucky to reel in Van Gundy -- their second choice from the beginning -- because the Sacramento Kings were pursuing the former Miami Heat coach.

Van Gundy said it didn't bother him to be second choice. He saw great potential in the Magic, has family in the area and doesn't have to move far from Miami. But it's been a frenetic affair that has kept Van Gundy and his wife awake more than 36 straight hours.

Stan Van Gundy Speaks

On ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning, new Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says he respects Billy Donovan for his honesty. He says the Magic, with its core of young players, was an attractive job. Listen Insider

"The first reaction obviously was surprise when [Magic general manager Otis Smith] called over the weekend -- I was a little bit shocked," Van Gundy said. "And then from there just so many ups and downs on whether I thought it was going to work out or not work out.

"It seemed to be changing almost hourly, and we were truly on an emotional roller coaster for quite a while."

The Magic said Wednesday that would allow Donovan to back out of his 5-year, $27.5 million deal, about three days hours after news broke that he had changed his mind.

"I feel terrible about it. [The Magic are] a great organization," Donovan said in Gainesville. "They have great ownership, and they're great people. I feel sorry and have apologized. It was my decision; it was my mistake. I have to take responsibility for that, which I'm trying to do."

Donovan was apologetic -- to fans, his family, the Magic and Florida -- but said no one from the Gators pressured him. He said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley wouldn't even talk about the situation because Donovan was under contract with Orlando.

"When I made the decision, the next morning it just did not feel right for me," Donovan said. "I've got too much respect for the Magic, for the organization, for their team, for their fans, to continue on."

Stan Van Gundy
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesStan Van Gundy helped round the Heat into championship form and will look to do the same with the Magic.

Van Gundy coached the Miami Heat for more than two seasons, resigning last year but remaining with the team as an adviser to coach Pat Riley.

He was under contract with the Heat for another year, and the Magic had to give Miami one of its three second round picks in the upcoming draft, No. 39. The Heat also have the option of switching first-round picks with Orlando next year, but not if the Magic have a lottery pick. In that case, they could take a second-round selection or other compensation.

"I'm happy that Stan is back in coaching," Riley said. "It's where he belongs."

For the second time in six days, Magic general manager Otis Smith held a basketball painted team colors and posed for pictures with a man he introduced as head coach. He tried to keep a sense of humor.

"We started this offseason and the process of looking for a head coach. We targeted two guys, and we actually hired them both within a six day period of time,'' Smith said.

Van Gundy also was considered by the Charlotte Bobcats and Indiana Pacers, but those teams hired other coaches. He was in Sacramento yesterday, close to accepting a job with the Kings because the Orlando situation was so fragile. But Van Gundy said Orlando was his top choice.

"From a professional standpoint this is just a tremendous opportunity," he said. 'You come to a franchise here in Orlando that has a great young core, starting with a 21-year-old All-Star in Dwight Howard, several other very good young players, salary cap flexibility -- and beyond the flexibility moneywise a very attractive place for players to come.''

Van Gundy was Riley's longtime protege before taking over as Heat coach shortly before the start of the 2003-04 season, Dwyane Wade's first. That team started 0-7, but wound up 42-40 and made the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Wade, the MVP of last season's NBA finals, credits Van Gundy for turning that season around.

"I am very grateful to Pat," Van Gundy said Thursday in Orlando. "First of all, in over 12 years there he nurtured my NBA coaching career and I really learned what I know about the NBA from him. And then he advanced me and gave me a chance and opportunity as a head coach and after some troublesome moments yesterday, he allowed me to take this opportunity. So I am excited and grateful to him."

The Heat and Magic now will meet four times a season as opponents in the Southeast Division.

"It'll be exciting to go against a coach that I feel really helped me develop to this point and, as always, there's that mutual respect," Wade said this week. "So best of luck to Stan and his family and hopefully he gets what he wants and what he deserves."

Van Gundy's brother Jeff spent parts of 11 seasons coaching the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. Last month, Jeff was fired from the Rockets. Their father, Bill, was a successful college coach in upstate New York.

"Stan's a guy who knows the game. You can see that from his whole family line, from his father to his brother to himself," Wade said. "I know it's something he loves to do. So for him to be back ... it's great."

Donovan and Jeff Van Gundy are close friends because the Florida coach played under him in college at Providence. The two even conferred as Donovan wrestled over the Magic decision.

Van Gundy resigned as the Heat's coach 21 games into the 2005-06 season, citing personal and family reasons. Riley took over, leading the Heat to their first championship.

Van Gundy was 112-73 at Miami and in 2004-05 won the Southeast Division and made the Eastern Conference finals. The team won 59 games that year, second best in franchise history.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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