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Donovan returns to Florida

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

I had a chance to speak at length with Billy Donovan on Thursday and he was embarrassed over the turmoil he caused the Orlando Magic. Donovan is one classy guy, with lots of integrity. He is as special as they come. I've gotten to know Billy and his family really well as my daughter lived in the same subdivision down in Gainesville when she worked at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida.

During those times, I got to know the Donovan family, whether it was at church or a chance meeting on the streets. This is a special family. What happened to Billy was very simple. He realized he had utopia and he was in heaven in Gainesville. At that moment, he made a wise decision. It really wasn't in his heart to be the head coach of the Magic and it would not have been smart to go forward in the pros.

If Donovan had been with the Magic and changed his mind later on, it would have been a real nightmare. Now Gator nation is on cloud nine with Donovan back in Gainesville. I can tell you that while eating breakfast at my favorite place, The Broken Egg, Florida fans were ecstatic with the decision to return to Florida.

His legacy, when it is all said and done, is going to be big-time. He will build on those two national championships because this guy is a workaholic in recruiting. Donovan is one of four active coaches with two or more national championships; Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun are the others. That's pretty impressive company, my friends.

Donovan has won almost 72 percent of his games while coaching the Gators. He's already the school's winningest coach (passing Norm Sloan) and his nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances easily outdistances the three straight trips that was the school record before his arrival.

Down in Florida, athletic director Jeremy Foley will provide all the resources to get the job done. Foley has shown that already with the success of the basketball and football programs, as well as several other sports in Gainesville. He won't stand for mediocrity, nor will Donovan. The Florida staff, led by Donovan and associate head coach Larry Shyatt, will roll up their sleeves and bust their guts to continue to build a successful program.

Meanwhile the Magic got the right guy in Stan Van Gundy, who did a terrific job with the Miami Heat. Now both programs can move on in a positive way.

Donovan has sent a message because college basketball is where he wants to be. That is loud and clear now as he's not allowed to coach in the NBA for the next five seasons. College basketball is fortunate to have his talents and the same can be said for Gator Nation.

I see him as a college coach for life and that is a victory for the game I love.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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