There’s no other way to put it: Last season was a complete train wreck for the Orlando Magic.
Dwight Howard held the team hostage with his trade demands, went back and forth as to whether he would or wouldn’t re-up with the team, and even at one point opted in for the final year of his contract, and one more season with the Magic.
Dwight was ultimately sent to the Lakers over the summer, but not before making it clear that he wanted Stan Van Gundy, his head coach at the time, fired while he was still in the middle of the flip-flopping process.
Things came to a head, as you may recall, during one of the most awkward press conferences of all time.
But now that Van Gundy is out of the coaching game for the time being, he’s had some distance from the situation, and perhaps some time to reflect on how it all went down. And from his perspective, there would be no problem coaching Howard again at some point in the future.
In fact, Van Gundy would welcome it. Here’s what he told Richard Deitsch of SI.com:
SI.com: You’ve said your relationship with Dwight Howard is good, these days, correct?
Van Gundy: Yeah, it is. We’ve been in touch throughout the offseason and throughout his rehab. I’ve kept tabs on what has been going on with him. I’ve said from my standpoint that my thoughts of him are all good. I don’t know how many games we won here in five years but it was a lot and he was a huge factor in that thing. He did a lot for me and he was an easy guy to coach, one of the smartest players I have ever coached. He was coachable and practiced every single day. We had our differences and they became public. Had we been left to handle them on our own, I think things would have been a lot of different.
SI.com: If you had to coach him again, there would be no issue?
Van Gundy: Not from my standpoint. Heck, if I were ever anywhere again and he were available, I’d be knocking down the door of my general manager to do anything to get him.
There’s an obvious joke about Stockholm Syndrome to be made here, but in reality, these remarks are consistent with what we saw from Van Gundy all last season. He’s one of the smartest coaches in the game, and one of the most honest.
Van Gundy truly isn’t one to be bothered by off-the-court drama, and he doesn’t care what the public perception is beyond the game of basketball. It’s part of the reason why it was such a shame to see him have to deal with all that Howard nonsense, but it’s also why he’ll be back coaching in the NBA just as soon as he decides the time is right.