What Stan Van Gundy Really Said
One of the problems with the world of Twitter is that so much is lost in translation, so much is lost in the 150-character limit, that what people wind up believing about a situation might be fairly far removed from the actual situation.
This is largely what happened this morning when the news “broke” that Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said he knew Dwight Howard wanted him fired. Instead of a fully-developed and contextualized story, people read bits and pieces of tweets that might have led them down the wrong path.
So here, for the record, is all of what Stan Van Gundy had to say after shootaround this morning.
“Look, stuff like that, it happens in the NBA and when it comes out that one of the highest profile guys in the league has asked for his coach to be fired. It’s going to be the story, but it’s disappointing. I’d rather not have it come out, but I’d rather it hadn’t rained a couple of days ago. Life goes on.”
Van Gundy was then confronted by someone saying he, himself, said the story about Dwight wanting him fired was not true.
“I didn’t say it was untrue,” Van Gundy clarified. “I just said you move on. Look, what’s important right now is that we play basketball, but that’s where our focus needs to be. There doesn’t need to be any focus on my job security. Nobody has to worry about me. I’ll be fine. If I need to, I could get another job. I have money put away, so there’s no concern about my job security and there shouldn’t be any concern about what Dwight wants right now, honestly. That’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is everyone of us, coaches, players, everybody, Dwight, his teammates and all of us as coaches working our asses off every single day to get better as a team and get ready for the playoffs. That’s what it’s about and that’s what it’s got to stay about. The rest of it is, management takes care of all of that, they decide it. The day you take a coaching job, I don’t think there’s anybody taking a coach job in this league saying ‘I’ll probably be here until the day I die.’ (Stuff)’s going to happen at some point. You don’t worry about that.
To be clear, Van Gundy isn’t saying Dwight didn’t ask for him to be fired. Just the opposite, in fact.
“Yes. I know he has. That’s just the way it is. So, again, I’ve been dealing with that all year. It’s not anything real bothersome. You go out and do your job.”
At the end of the day, Van Gundy is more concerned about Howard being committed to the team than he is about any commitment to himself.
“It’s not a matter of being committed to me, it’s a matter of being committed to the team and trying to do everything you can to help the team win games, that’s all I’m concerned with. As far as the other stuff, I don’t think that matters. I don’t need love and support here at my job. I’ll turn to my family for that. I don’t need these guys giving me hugs and pats on the back. I don’t really need that.”
Ironically, a few moments later Howard walked up to Van Gundy and wrapped his arm around his shoulders.
From there Van Gundy turned the discussion back to the task at hand – preparing to play the New York Knicks tonight.
“(Management) hasn’t told me anything. They don’t need to. I’m the coach right now and I’m the coach until they decide I’m not the coach. They don’t need to tell me anything and I don’t expect them to tell me anything. What I expect is that we play better defense tonight. You guys think that stuff’s crazy but that’s honestly the truth. The rest of it, I said this before. I don’t care about that stuff. If they want to, it’s 12:02 right now. If they want to fire me at 12:05 I’ll go home and find something to do. I’ll have a good day. I’m not worried about that at all. What I’m worried about is at 7:00 tonight are we going to be able to guard Carmelo Anthony? That concerns the hell out of me.”
Van Gundy also pointed out that in any work environment there are bound to be employees who don’t like their bosses.
“Look. If you’re a player, I mean, forget players. Anybody in this world, I’ll bet in this group that we have at least one person here who has an issue with their boss and maybe doesn’t like them. Maybe one person in this room, but still works very hard and does a very good job. That’s normal, every day life for everybody and it’s no different for anybody else. What matters is how people approach their job and go out and do it on the floor. You’re playing for your own pride, for your teammates more than anything else. That’s what matters.
Van Gundy did admit that it’s somewhat liberating to put the whole situation on the table.
“To me, since everything came out yesterday, I’ll be honest, you know you’re going to get asked and you think about how you’re going to respond and the whole thing. The only thing I’m ever uncomfortable with is bull(puckey) and so to come in and no comment or deny that it’s true and everything. The only thing that ever liberates me is be honest and deal with what’s out there. Some people have a hard time with what’s out there I guess but to me that’s a lot easier to deal with than bull(puckey).”
Will management listen to Dwight?
“I have no idea,” said Van Gundy. “Obviously, it will be a management decision. They have to make the decision but I’m not worried about.”
Dwight Howard interjected – “Yeah, Stan, we’re not worried about that, right?”
Stan: “That’s what I just said. We have to be worried about winning games.”
Dwight: “What’s our main concern?”
Stan: “We have to be concerned with stopping Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.”
The bottom line for the Magic is that there are three separate entities with three separate agendas. The players have their agenda, the coaching staff has their agenda, and the front office guys have their agenda. Championships are won by teams who are all on the same page, not by teams that have conflicting agendas.
There’s really nothing new here. Dwight has been vocal about his opposition to the Van Gundy style for years. He is famous for his Van Gundy impersonation, in which he shouts until his voice is hoarse. The Magic have been on a downward slope of disconnection since they lost in the NBA Finals in 2009.
Don’t be surprised if both Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith are gone before the start of next season, but also don’t lose any sleep on Van Gundy’s behalf. He’ll likely be on the first plane to Portland to talk about the Trail Blazers’ head coaching vacancy.