The Nuggets and Magic plan to target Billy Donovan among other candidates in their respective offseason coaching searches, and the University of Florida coach has an increasing desire to jump to the NBA, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. It’s likely that other teams that make coaching changes this year will go after him, too, Stein adds. Rick Pitino, a longtime Donovan confidant, said on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike show today that he believes Donovan feels the pull of the pro game, backing up a growing sentiment around the league that he’s ready to pounce on the right NBA opportunity, according to Stein.
“I don’t recommend it for college coaches to do that unless they know what it’s all about,” Pitino said. “I take someone like Billy Donovan. I think Billy has looked at it, I think he has an urge to coach in the NBA — a strong desire to coach in the NBA — and would like to try it, very similar to Brad Stevens, who is doing a wonderful job with the Celtics. I think people like that with that type of personality will do very well. … If Billy doesn’t do well, he can go back to college. Brad Stevens can go back to college. When you get to be our age, Tom [Izzo] and my age, where are you going back to? The McBurney’s YMCA on 37th Street or 34th Street? If you’re happy where you’re at, it’s a good place to stay.”
Donovan this past December signed a deal that extended his contract with the Gators through 2020 and lifted his average annual salaries from $3.7MM to slightly more than $4MM, according to Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun. He can escape the contract, which makes him the fifth most well-paid coach in college basketball, with a buyout of just $500K, though a one-month window to leave Florida for free just lapsed, as Brockway details. Donovan’s contract didn’t allow him any NBA outs from 2007/08 through 2012/13, a penance for having briefly left the school to take the Magic coaching job in 2007, when he quickly reneged on that decision, as Stein points out.
Donovan indicated this past May that he wouldn’t rule out coaching in the NBA someday, shortly after he said that he had contact with a couple of NBA teams last year. Reports indicated those were the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves, who, according to Stein, made “serious overtures.” Donovan’s Gators went an uncharacteristic 16-17 this season, a year after a Final Four appearance. The coach, who turns 50 next month, has a history of producing high-level NBA talent. No college has produced a greater number of NBA players presently making $10MM or more per year than Florida has, as we pointed out last month, and all of them played for Donovan.