Thursday , Jun , 07 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Apologetic Donovan returns to Gainesville

Gainesville, FL (Sports Network) – Billy Donovan apologized to just about
everyone in the Sunshine State and returned to the University of Florida on
Thursday after a week-long dalliance with the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

Donovan decided to leave the program he has built into a national power and
last Friday signed a lucrative five-year deal with the Magic, but immediately
had second thoughts and spent a week trying to opt out of the deal.

The Magic finally made it official on Wednesday and let him out of the deal,
apparently when they settled on a replacement in Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy was
announced as the Magic’s new head coach on Thursday.

“The last four or five days certainly have been difficult,” Donovan said
Thursday at a news conference. “I want to take this time to apologize, first
and foremost to the Orlando Magic for what’s happened. I feel terrible about
it, very sorry about it.

“I’ve talked to Jeremy [AD Jeremy Foley] and [Florida president] Dr. Machen a
lot about what I’ve put the University of Florida through as well. I’m sorry
for that.

“I’m also sorry for what I put my family through for the last four or five
days. It was my decision, it was my mistake. I have to take responsibility for
that, which I’m trying to do. When I made the decision, the next morning it
just did not feel right for me.

“I’ve got too much respect for the Magic, for their organization, for their
team, for their fans. To continue on, I thought it would have been totally
unfair to them, knowing where my heart was at, where I wanted to be. They were
relying on me, depending on me, and I thought the mistake that I made would
have become a greater mistake, not only for myself, but for the Magic if I
would have continued on.”

Donovan is now back where he feels he belongs. He has compiled a 261-103 mark
over 11 seasons in Gainesville, leading the Gators to the national
championship the last two years and a championship game appearance in 2000.

“Really, my decision came down to my love for the University of Florida, how
much I want to be here, how much I love the people I work with and really
where my heart’s at,” Donovan continued. “I’m just sorry that it took all the
way to this point to get there, because I know it’s been a difficult time for
a lot of people. Certainly for the Orlando Magic. They’re a great
organization, a class organization. I apologize to them, their team, their
fans for what has happened.”

Donovan, who earlier this spring turned down an offer to leave Florida for the
vacancy at the University of Kentucky, doesn’t plan on another flirtation with
the NBA.

“As long as the University of Florida would like to have me here, this is
where I want to be,” Donovan added. “I think, sometimes, you make statements
like ‘the rest of my life, forever,’ there is both sides to it. In my heart, I
want to be at the University of Florida for the rest of my time coaching.
That’s really where I want to be.

“It’s been a growing and learning experience in a lot of ways for me,
personally. But, I’m not interested in the NBA. I’m not interested in going
there. All I’m really interested in is coming back to Florida and doing the
best job I can in a place I love dearly.”

In 13 years of collegiate coaching, which included two years at Marshall
before joining the Gators, Donovan has compiled a 296-123 record.