Right up front, I’ll say Billy Donovan is a good guy. Admittedly a good guy who made a mistake, but a good guy nonetheless. Donovan’s reversal after agreeing to be the Orlando Magic’s head coach is a colossal public relations mistake and is so un-Billy that it’s hard to get your mind around it.
Donovan is a very buttoned up guy. He’s thoughtful and honest and loyal and about as thorough a person as you’ll ever meet. How he didn’t think this through to the end is beyond me. Maybe he was being pressured by the Magic and was caught up in the whole idea of being courted. Maybe the money turned his head a bit. But he made a mistake.
He realized that being the Head Coach at a big time Division one school is a lot better job, for him at least, then being another NBA coach on the sidelines. Who did he want to be? Phil Jackson or Dean Smith? Even though his friends advised him to seriously consider the job with Orlando, his friends were all guys who had lost jobs in the NBA. Rick Pitino and Jeff Van Gundy are his two confidants when it comes to coaching and both have been put out on the street by NBA teams. Somewhere in Billy’s mind, he didn’t want to be that guy. He didn’t want to be the college coach who gave it a shot at the NBA and was eventually fired.
And he would have been because they all are.
He’s lost some of his luster, some of his credibility and some of his sainthood among sports fans in general. But he has tried to correct it. The bad thing is how many other lives his two-day sojourn had an effect on. From the fans, players and management of the Magic to the coaches, players and administration at Florida, everybody’s been on a roller coaster for the past week. They didn’t know where they were living, who was going to pay them and in some instances, if they had a job at all. Donovan knows that and that’s one of the reasons he’s called Magic officials again on Tuesday to apologize saying he was “so sorry and didn’t mean to cause any harm.”
The Magic are doing the right thing, making Donovan break the contract. They hired him; they wanted him and by some reports, still want him as their coach. But he’s shown no inclination to change his mind, again, so a legal deal has to be worked out. Reportedly, Billy will have to agree to a five-year non-compete in order to depart from the contract with the Magic without any financial compensation.
There might be a little money changing hands, but I don’t think it’ll be substantial. There should be a little “wiping this egg off my face money” paid to the Magic, who come out holding the bag in this deal.
There’s a theory that if the press conferences were reversed last Friday, that Billy wouldn’t have felt the heartstring pull of Gainesville so late in the day. The Magic wanted to have the big splash of the first press conference, so Gainesville was in the afternoon.
You could see Billy was emotional and that he struggled with the decision but his call to Jeremy on Saturday saying he had had a change of heart must have been a huge shock to the Florida AD. The Gators say they’re riding this thing out until Magic and Donovan make a deal. That’s smart, and shortly thereafter, they’ll sign Billy to an extension and put the thing to rest.