Why Would Howard Want Van Gundy Gone?
You are being worked Magic fans.
You are being worked by the PR hype machine and it’s ugly and unnecessary.
What’s been said is not what has happened and the hype machine is making it bigger than what really happened.
Let’s put a couple of things out there on Magic coach Stan Van Gundy’s decision to go public with the “news” that Dwight Howard wants him replaced.
The “source” of the news story that prompted the question on Thursday came from the Magic’s own coaching staff. In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline virtually the entire coaching staff was vocal about wanting Dwight Howard traded. They wanted the Magic to deal him to get his voice out of the process. They viewed him as unprofessional and a cancer in the locker room because the coaching staff in Orlando knew that if Dwight stays, they were gone.
But let’s rewind to the beginning of this.
When the NBA lockout was lifted, Dwight Howard made it clear to the Magic that he would not be signing a long-term extension and that it would be best for all involved if he were traded.
When asked why, his camp basically said ‘we can’t win here’.
They told everyone who’d listen that the manner in which the Magic run their team from the top to the bottom would never yield a championship. You’ll win some games, but no championships.
Magic president Otis Smith started making phone calls and found a deal that he liked and prepared to trigger a move that would have sent Dwight to New Jersey in a complex deal that would have netted Orlando Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and as many as three first round draft picks.
Magic ownership decided to nix the deal, and ownership and new Magic CEO Alex Martins told Dwight they would not be trading him, which started a dialogue designed to convince Dwight to stay beyond his current deal.
To say the Magic groveled is an understatement. They begged. They pleaded and they promised.
When asked directly about what needed to change, coaching, namely the manner in which the team was coached, was openly discussed.
The idea of replacing Stan Van Gundy was broached before training camp. The Magic made it clear that changing coaches just days before camp wasn’t reasonable and that maybe talking things out with Stan might lead to a better situation.
There was an hour-long meeting in which Stan was asked to be more flexible. He was asked to allow the leaders of the team in Howard and Jameer Nelson to police the team on the floor and for Stan to lighten up.
And for the most part Stan Van Gundy tried, but at the end of the day, you are who you are.
Let’s be real for a minute.
The Magic as an organization tried everything under the moon to get Dwight to stay. It was a daily romance of promises and offers. Dwight didn’t have to ask for much, it was freely offered. The Magic talked more about replacing Stan Van Gundy than Dwight Howard did, and they have done the same regarding Magic president Otis Smith. So to characterize any of this as Dwight “campaigning” to get Stan Van Gundy fired is simply not true. It’s been mentioned less than a handful of times since training camp and it’s generally been said to Dwight not by Dwight.
So what’s the real issue?
Dwight Howard wants a coach he can connect with; a coach he can trust; a coach that can relate to what players are going through in a season.
Dwight does not want to be an employee. He wants to be a partner and he knows that he cannot have that with Stan Van Gundy or any of the coaches on the staff. He also knows he cannot have that with Otis Smith.
Look around the league at the teams that have won NBA championships. They have positive relationships with their star players. The star players are part of the process.
Dwight Howard isn’t seeking a push-over head coach. He is seeking a coach that wants to connect with his players in a positive way.
Look around the league at the hot young coaches who are having success: Scott Brooks, a former player that connects with his stars; Ty Corbin, a former player that relates to his stars.
The respected veteran coaches like Gregg Popovich, who is as hard as nails, has a relationship with his stars. Rick Carlisle found success when he started talking to his players rather than yelling at them.
The days of “I coach, you play” are gone. The successful teams have bonds and trust with each other.
Dwight Howard did not have that when the season started and he asked for a trade to situations where he might find it. The Magic opted to not trade him. The Magic asked ‘what do we need to do to get you to stay?’.
Did Dwight Howard ask for Stan Van Gundy to be fired?
Maybe. But not in the malicious Machiavellian way some are painting this.
Dwight Howard was asked what needed to change in order for him to stay in Orlando and he was honest about it. Stan Van Gundy and his coaches may not have liked Dwight’s answer, but the Magic asked the question. Dwight has never made a secret of his dislike for Stan Van Gundy’s coaching style.
The only thing that’s really changed is that the coaching staff turned on Dwight Howard and put internal things into the media and his head coach used it to park a bus squarely on his back.
When Dwight Howard’s camp said ‘we can’t win here’ – this was exactly what they were talking about.
Championship organizations don’t operate this way and Stan Van Gundy and the Magic coaching staff simply put a face to that concept.
As one savvy reporter pointed out last night in Orlando, maybe this was Stan Van Gundy’s way of hitting the eject button and guaranteeing he is gone as soon as the Magic’s season ends.
The question is, with five straight losses, can the Magic make a change before the playoffs considering virtually everyone on the staff is part of the problem?
Sadly, when a team has all-encompassing, systemic issues like the Magic have, it takes more than a couple of weeks to right the ship. In fact, the process of correcting everything that’s wrong with the team may claim more than the coaching staff and front office crew. It may take a clean sweep of the roster, as well.
Needless to say, what’s on tap is the most critical summer in the history of the Orlando Magic franchise.
Did Dwight Howard ask for Stan Van Gundy to be fired… maybe, but Stan just illustrated why Howard would have asked for it.
This is not how championships are won and this is exactly what Howard’s camp was saying four months ago.