It's Official: Florida's Billy Donovan Will Lead NBA's Orlando Magic

After leading Florida to two national titles, Billy Donovan has agreed to leave the Gators to coach the Orlando Magic, an official in the NBA told the Associated Press on Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been finalized, said Donovan agreed to a five-year, $27.5 million contract.

Donovan, who turned down an offer in April to coach Kentucky, replaces Brian Hill, who was fired after two consecutive losing seasons.

Donovan, his agent and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley didn't return phone messages left by the AP. School president Bernie Machen, who was attending a meeting of Southeastern Conference officials, declined comment.

The Magic fired Hill last week, though the team made its first postseason appearance this year in four tries but lost to Detroit.

Speculation that Donovan would leave Gainesville seemed to end after he turned down Kentucky and said, "I love the University of Florida." He was also linked to the Memphis Grizzlies' job, but never had formal talks with them and repeatedly refused to comment about any open coaching positions.

He said he intended to sign an extension at Florida, where he was making $1.7 million annually.

At an NBA pre-draft camp, Donovan's former players said they hadn't heard anything about him switching jobs.

"I've talked to him, just not about that," Al Horford said.

If he's going to go, now could be the best time for Donovan. Florida lost its top seven scorers after the season, including potential top-10 NBA picks Joakim Noah, Horford and Corey Brewer.

Donovan's made it to the NCAA title game three times in his 11 years at the traditionally football-oriented school. Under him, Florida has had nine straight 20-win seasons, nearly doubling the amount it had before his arrival.


Meantime, all Marc Iavaroni faces in his first job as a head coach is turning the NBA's worst team back into a winner.

The former Phoenix assistant took over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday following a 22-60 season that ended a run of three straight playoff appearances.

Iavaroni said he knows how to reverse that slide.

"I've always been noted for my enthusiasm, my passion for the game," he said. "We're going to instill in them a continuing passion for winning, a passion for preparation and a passion for honest competition."

Iavaroni has spent 17 years in the NBA as a player and assistant coach and is regarded as one of the league's top assistants. He spent the past five seasons with the Suns.

He vowed to return the sense of competition the Grizzlies seem to have misplaced.

"You compete in a drill. You compete in a scrimmage. You compete in a preseason game. You compete in one minute or you compete in 41 minutes. That's going to be a trademark of our team," Iavaroni told a news conference.

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

Iavaroni said he was impressed with owner Michael Heisley's pledge to run the Grizzlies as a partnership between the coaching and management staffs.

"They're obviously committed to winning," Iavaroni said.

Heisley said Iavaroni's coaching style with an emphasis on "positive reinforcement" will work well with younger players like Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Hakim Warrick.

"With his background, with his personality ... he'll be the right guy for a young upcoming Grizzlies team," Heisley said.

The franchise is also looking for a general manager to replace team president Jerry West, who is retiring after next month's draft when the

West was in Florida for the league's pre-draft camp and did not attend Thursday's announcement.

Heisley acknowledged he has talked with David Griffin, the Suns' vice president of basketball operations, about the general manager job. But he said he has also talked with "some other people" and does not expect to make a decision until mid-June. Iavaroni said he will be consulted about that choice.

"It'll be important what I think," he said. "But at the same time, that's not going to be my decision."

Iavaroni said he will pick up the pace of the Grizzlies' play.

"We want to attack the opponent," he said. "We want to make sure we're attacking before the defense is set and at the same time we want to make sure we go a great job of setting our defense as quickly as possible."

With the Suns, Iavaroni was a lead assistant under coach Mike D'Antoni. He was an assistant under Pat Riley at Miami from 1999-02 and an assistant under Fratello at Cleveland from 1997-99. Iavaroni played in the NBA from 1982 to 1989 with Philadelphia, San Antonio and Utah.

The Grizzlies began last season with All-Star Pau Gasol missing the first 22 games recovering from a broken left foot. Lowry broke his left wrist and missed 71 games.

For several months during the season, talk about the pending sale of the franchise raised doubts about the team's future. The proposed sale to a group led by former Duke teammates Brian Davis and Christian Laettner ultimately fell through, and Heisley said he was taking the Grizzlies off the market.

Before moving to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001, the Grizzlies were regular dwellers near the bottom of the standings. But West, one of the league's top executives, joined the franchise in 2002 and by 2004 the Grizzlies were in the playoffs.

The Grizzlies were swept in all three playoff appearances, however, and have the league's longest postseason losing streak.


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 after four seasons.

O'Brien previously coached in Boston and Philadelphia, compiling a 182-158 record in five seasons. He has been out of coaching since he was fired by the 76ers after the 2005 season.

Pacers president Larry Bird said he had talked with O'Brien during the past 10 days about the job.

"It came down to we needed a guy with experience in here. A guy who I think I'm going to be on the same page with to do the things necessary to take us to the next level," Bird said. "I've got the right man for the right job."

O'Brien had been writing for the past two years, but he expected to return to coaching.

"I knew shortly after I left Philadelphia that I wasn't going to be out of coaching long if I had anything to do with it," he said. "I was hoping to get an opportunity like this."

Indiana finished out the playoffs with a 35-47 record this year. The team has been in disarray since the November 2004 brawl between Pacers players and Pistons fans -- months after the Pacers had finished with the NBA's best record and reached the Eastern Conference finals.

Bird has said he is willing to trade anyone on the team, including All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal.

The Pacers don't have a pick in the upcoming draft, though chief executive Donnie Walsh has said the team will maneuver to get one. Bird said O'Brien will have input on upcoming personnel decisions.

O'Brien had a 43-39 record in his single season at Philadelphia, a 10-win improvement from the year before, leading the team back to the playoffs. O'Brien, though, wasn't popular with his players, who often complained about their roles.

O'Brien also coached the Celtics from 2001-04 after the departure of Rick Pitino. Before that, he was an assistant with Boston and New York Knicks.

Carlisle had a 181-147 record with the Pacers, but his time was overshadowed with player troubles. The Pacers dealt with long suspensions of Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson, the two most prominent players in the 2004 brawl, and ended up trading both players.

Jackson and point guard Jamaal Tinsley both face felony charges in separate nightclub fights during the past year - behavior which Bird has called an embarrassment to the team.

O'Brien said his team will play the brand of basketball Pacers fans expect.

"We will practice hard," he said. "Discipline and organization is a cornerstone of any basketball team at any level, and certainly, our guys will know what we want of them."

During their lengthy coaching search, the Pacers brass interviewed former Miami coach Stan Van Gundy twice and later interviewed Chicago assistant Jim Boylan twice. They also interviewed current assistant coaches Johnny Davis and Chuck Person.

Indiana was the only team O'Brien spoke with about a head coaching position.

Story Courtesy: AP Wire Reports &

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus