It was one of the strangest, most unexpected coach/player media sessions ever.
Back in April 2012, the relationship between Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and star player Dwight Howard was strained (to put it kindly). Then one day before a game, Van Gundy drank his Diet Pepsi in a media session and told everyone Howard went to management and asked for the coach to be fired — then Howard walked into the session, not knowing what had been said, and gave Van Gundy a hug and said everything was fine. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.
“The first question is like ‘Dwight, they said you wanted to get Stan fired.’ I was like ‘Oh, my God,’ ” Howard recalled. “That was literally the worst day of my life. We had a game that night. And that was the worst game I ever played. Like, I could not hit the basket for nothing. And you would have thought — I don’t know what was going on that night, but it was the worst ever.
“So man, shout out to Stan, man. Shout out to Stan, man.”
Just more than a month later, Van Gundy was let go (after a first-round playoff loss to Indiana). The following season Howard was traded to the Lakers (which was another disaster as he came back too quickly from back surgery and was never right), then eventually jumped to Houston.
Howard said their relationship was never that bad, and whatever was wrong it has since been patched up. Van Gundy and Howard text and talk regularly, they both say.
Which is great, but it doesn’t make that April day in 2012 any less legendary.