Sat, Jun 02, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Donovan agrees five-year deal with Orlando Magic

NEW FACES Mark Iavaroni joined the Memphis Grizzlies and ex-Celtics and 76ers coach Jim O'Brien will be in charge of the Indiana Pacers next season


Billy Donovan was hired as coach of the Orlando Magic on Thursday. He agreed to a five-year, US$27.5 million contract, an NBA official said.

After winning the last two US college championships at University of Florida, Donovan is set to join the core of his teams in the pros.

Also on Thursday, the Memphis Grizzlies -- Donovan had been mentioned as a candidate for that job, too -- hired Phoenix Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni. The Indiana Pacers chose Jim O'Brien to replace Rick Carlisle.

Iavaroni has been a leading candidate to land a head job for some time because many teams want to imitate the Suns' up-tempo style. But the word of his hiring was trumped hours later by the news out of Orlando.

Donovan turned down an offer in April to coach University of Kentucky, saying at the time he intended to sign a contract extension. Instead, he replaces Brian Hill, who was fired after two consecutive losing seasons in Orlando.

The Magic went 40-42 and were swept by Detroit in the first round of the playoffs.

Donovan made it to the US college 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 number it had before his arrival.

Though he had previously been mentioned for openings in the college and pros, this may be the best time for Donovan to leave the Florida Gators. Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford are all expected to be lottery picks in the NBA draft, and in fact were in Orlando on Thursday for a predraft camp.

Donovan's former players said they hadn't heard anything about him switching jobs.

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

Memphis went 22-60 last season, the worst record in the league, but ended up with only the No. 4 pick in the draft lottery. The Grizzlies should be more interesting next season if Iavaroni is successful in getting them to play like the Suns.

"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 do a great job of setting our defense as quickly as possible."

O'Brien previously coached the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, 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, and now will try to get the Pacers back on track after they missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

"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," Pacers president Larry Bird said. "I've got the right man for the right job."

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 the New York Knicks.

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