And the “we will do anything to keep Dwight Howard happy” parade continues.
The Orlando Magic have announced that they are parting ways with coach Stan Van Gundy as well as GM Otis Smith. Follow that link if you want to read the generic “he was great for us” quotes from the owner that just fired him.
In five years with the Magic Van Gundy had a 259-135 (.657) record and took the team to the NBA finals. He is the most successful coach in Magic history.
The move is not really a surprise, we know from last season that center Howard had asked for a change — Van Gundy himself said he was told that by management, while Howard has denied it nobody believed him. In the NBA, the power struggle between the truly elite player and the coach always goes to the player — they are harder to come by and you have to do everything to keep them. Which is what the Magic are trying to do, show Howard they are willing to go a new direction and retool for him.
Is this move enough to keep Howard so he doesn’t leave them after this season? I doubt it. He’ll want to see people come in who he thinks can build a winner in Orlando… like Van Gundy did. But lets not belabor that point.
The question is, what coach can the Magic get that is better? Phil Jackson is not walking through that door.
But maybe his former lead assistant Brian Shaw is. Shaw is currently a big part of Frank Vogel’s staff in Indiana and is reportedly one of the key guys Howard said he wanted the Magic go bring in. Don’t be shocked if bigger names like Nate McMillan also end up in the mix pretty quickly.
As for Van Gundy, he will land on his feet as he is now maybe the hottest free agent coach out there that doesn’t have 11 rings (maybe Mike D’Antoni would quibble). To be fair, like Howard lot of players are not fond of Van Gundy, who is seen as old-school and negative. But he wins and his teams defend. A whole lot of teams could use that.
Whoever the new GM turns out to be will have a difficult task ahead. You have to improve this team which is already over the salary cap and tax threshold, severely limiting your options, and point guard Jameer Nelson is testing the free agent market. The Magic are not flush with great trade pieces — nobody wants Hedo Turkoglu and you can’t get that much for solid players like J.J. Redick. There is no simple quick fix here, in an effort to put the team over the hump after their finals run Smith backed the team into a difficult financial corner.
But Howard got what he wanted. And we have more turmoil in Orlando.