DESTIN, Fla. -- Even if University of Florida officials had formally finalized a new contract for men's basketball coach Billy Donovan, the Gators couldn't have prevented him from bolting for the NBA's Orlando Magic.
Florida president Dr. J. Bernard Machen said Thursday that Donovan's new contract with the Gators had been agreed to "for a while." Florida officials had hoped to announce the new contract -- a seven-year deal that would have paid Donovan an average of about $3.5 million per season -- as early as next Monday.
"It's done. It's been done," Machen said of Donovan's pending contract with Florida. "Billy will tell you the contract has been done for a while."
Asked why the school hadn't formally announced the contract, Machen said: "You don't know how Florida works."
Even if the contract between Florida and Donovan had been finalized, it probably would have included a buyout of no more than $1 million. In fact, football coach Urban Meyer's current contract with the Gators includes a $150,000 buyout, which he would owe if he leaves the school before the end of the 2011 season.
Donovan, 42, also had been linked to openings with the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and Houston Rockets. Donovan said he met earlier this month with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley in the Orlando area. But Donovan said the meeting wasn't a job interview to replace interim coach Tony Barone, who took over for fired Mike Fratello after 30 games last season.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week at the SEC spring meetings at the Sandestin Resort, Donovan said he wasn't concerned his new contract with the Gators hadn't been announced.
"I have trust in [athletics director] Jeremy [Foley] and Dr. Machen, so really it's not in my hands," Donovan said. "It's really in the University of Florida's hands. I understand there is a process they're going to have to go through."
At the time, Donovan also said he wouldn't be anxious about going to the NBA after his mentor, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, and former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier struggled when they left college coaching jobs for the pros.
Donovan said Pitino and former Florida basketball coach Lon Kruger, who was fired as coach of the Atlanta Hawks after only 2 1/2 seasons, were only guilty of inheriting teams with little talent.
"Every experience means something, but I just don't believe the idea that Rick Pitino or Steve Spurrier can't be successful at the professional level," Donovan said. "I think it has more to do with the kind of teams they have taken over. Did guys like Lon Kruger and Leonard Hamilton really have a chance to win? Were those situations where they really had a chance? Could they really win there?
"Remember that coach Pitino was very successful with the Knicks before he went to Kentucky. Rick Pitino and Steve Spurrier can coach at any level. I really believe that."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.