Howard Catalyst For Magic To Dump Van Gundy

By  //  May 24, 2012

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MY TAKE

I just spent almost a week in Los Angeles, where I never saw Dwight Howard. Not once. Ah well, I guess we don’t move in the same circles or hang out at the same places. Los Angeles is a big place, too. Plenty of places to hide, which I’m guessing Howard is doing right now. Laying low.

He’s been in L.A. going on six weeks, ever since he had outpatient back surgery. His doctor recommended he stay there for three weeks. Evidently, Dwight’s doubling down.

Dwight Howard (Shutterstock image)

But even from a long way’s away on the Left Coast, Howard’s presence has been felt back in Orlando this week – and in a big way.

Where were you when you heard the news?

I was sitting in a friend’s house in Las Vegas this past Monday – oddly enough working on a magazine piece on Magic CEO Alex Martins – when I heard my email inbox tick. It was a message from the Magic public relations department, letting us the media know that Coach Stan Van Gundy had been “relieved of his duties” and General Manager Otis Smith had mutually agreed to “part ways.”

In other words, both were fired.

Let’s not forget that Van Gundy coached the Magic to the NBA Finals three seasons ago. And the job he did this year, keeping the team focused even with all the drama over Dwight asking to be traded, was beyond impressive. You don’t do what Van Gundy did with that team this season if you can’t motivate people to perform, which is why I don’t buy the theory that he had problems relating to players. That Magic locker room was full of players who loved playing for him.

The email went on to say that Martins was holding a press conference later in the afternoon.

Martins essentially said the same things he told me when we sat in his office last month – i.e. that Howard never asked him to fire Van Gundy. Actually, Martins was a little more expansive with me than he was with the media horde this past Monday, because when I asked him if Howard requested Van Gundy’s head, he was more specific when couching his words.

“I don’t know everything that Dwight was told because I’m not the only person who talks to Dwight,” Martins said. “And because of that, I won’t get into any specifics about what may or may not have been said.”

In other words, Howard expressed his desire to see Van Gundy gone to someone else in the Magic hierarchy. My guess is that it is the owner – Rich DeVos. Or maybe DeVos’ exiled son-in-law Bob Vander Weide.

Either way, he got his wish, which is why he’s likely laying low.

Howard’s image has taken a beating, and he only has himself to blame. He just got a very good coach fired, one of the NBA’s best when it comes to X’s and O’s and the best the Magic have ever had.

Let’s not forget that Van Gundy coached the Magic to the NBA Finals three seasons ago. And the job he did this year, keeping the team focused even with all the drama over Dwight asking to be traded, was beyond impressive. You don’t do what Van Gundy did with that team this season if you can’t motivate people to perform, which is why I don’t buy the theory that he had problems relating to players. That Magic locker room was full of players who loved playing for him.

Too bad that none of those players are the team’s franchise superstar.

Somewhere down the line, Howard will think differently about Van Gundy. I’m convinced of that. He’ll realize – too late, of course – that what he resented is what made him better. Van Gundy pushed him, yelled at him and didn’t sugarcoat his words.

Somewhere down the line, Howard will think differently about Van Gundy. I’m convinced of that. He’ll realize – too late, of course – that what he resented is what made him better. Van Gundy pushed him, yelled at him and didn’t sugarcoat his words.

There are people who push merely to push, and those are usually the insecure types who hide their deficiencies behind their authority. And then there are the Van Gundy types, who push and prod to get the best out of you, which is what he did with Dwight.

Van Gundy saw in Howard a defensive monster more so than an offensive threat, and molded him into the best center in the league. Yeah, he was tough. But it was tough love, and Howard blossomed from it.

It’s why Howard was just named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the fourth consecutive season, and also why he was the league’s leading rebounder (14.5 rpg) as well as its top defensive rebounder (10.8 drpg).

Howard wouldn’t be the player he is today without Van Gundy.

Again, he doesn’t see that now. But someday he will.

In the meantime, he has to make a decision, and make it soon. Is he going to stay, or is he going to go?

Howard’s always been a diva – the last guy out of the shower, the last guy on the team plane, the last guy on the court before games. He craves the attention; loves looking at himself in the mirror. But now he’s added drama queen to his diva image, and it’s not a good look.

He wanted more input into personnel decisions, and he wanted a different coach. So the Magic accommodated by firing Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy.

If Howard leaves now, the damage will be irreparable.

To him, and to the franchise.

It’s time for him to return to Orlando.

Time for him to make a decision.

Time to come out from hiding.


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5 Comments on "Howard Catalyst For Magic To Dump Van Gundy"

  1. Dr. James Palermo
    Dr. James Palermo May 25, 2012 at 7:23 am · Reply

    Peter,
    As always, a candid reality check into the ongoing saga of the Magic’s flawed operational culture. With Shaq and Howard we’ve seen two of the greatest centers in the game breeze through Orlando leaving in their wake no rings or trophies, but plenty of disruptive drama based on the “star power” of an immature, narcissistic, albeit “franchise” player.

    Thanks for your insight into the people like Van Gundy, who become pawns in these unfortunate scenarios.

    Jim Palermo

  2. Greg May 25, 2012 at 8:48 am · Reply

    Peter,

    Excellent insight into the mess that the STARS always seem to bring with them when playing for Orlando.

    Greg

  3. Gator Wilson May 25, 2012 at 10:37 am · Reply

    Trade him while you can. To Howard it’s all about Dwight, a player that can only do two things offensively: rebound and dunk. Defensively, he may have the best set of genes in the game but between the ears he is out played by more versatile but lesser gifted centers. I guess now the magic will bring in a coach to hold hands with Dwight. Who else would want the job?

  4. JIm Knudson May 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm · Reply

    Excellent article. Well written, fair, accurate and to the point. Peter captures the situation accurately. Dwight is in reality a petulent man child who is totally absorbed in one thing, himself. Clearly he has little regard for his Magic teammates, his coaches, his GM,. the DeVos family, and all of the Magic fans. Once the Magic called his bluff and he was forced into the extension for next year, you just knew all hell was going to break loose, and it did. Doubt anyone can cite to us a Championship organization in any sport which got to the top acquiesing to all of the whims and caprices of its best player. And by the way, just where did Dwight at his tender age get this great font of knowledge on how to run a NBA franchise?

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