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On Monday, Stan Van Gundy was “relieved of his duties as head coach” according to an Orlando Magic press release. In other words, he was fired.
For those who follow the Magic closely, this piece of news should have come as no surprise. On April 5, during Orlando’s shootaround before their game against the New York Knicks that night, Van Gundy let it be known that Dwight Howard wanted him fired. The kicker is that Van Gundy knew all season long. And now here we are.
But how did it all start?
Questions about Van Gundy’s future intensified around the trade deadline in mid-March when an ESPN report surfaced that the Magic would allow Dwight to decide the future of Van Gundy and Otis Smith if he would agree to sign an extension. Orlando released a statement, denying the report, but that didn’t stop Van Gundy — when asked about the rumor — from making it clear that he didn’t care if he was fired. At that point, it was only a matter of time before things would come to a head between the Magic, Van Gundy, and Dwight.
Van Gundy, known for being one of the most honest voices in the NBA, eventually let the truth out on that fateful day in early April.
So with Orlando doing everything in their power to convince Dwight to commit long-term with them, Van Gundy was fired and Smith mutually agreed to part ways with the Magic shortly thereafter. Perhaps the rumor was true?
The writers at Magic Basketball, alongside Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post, take a look at the aftermath of Van Gundy’s dismissal and Smith’s departure. Consider it a special 4-on-3 roundtable.
Did the Magic do the right thing by firing Van Gundy and parting ways with Smith?
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: No. The Magic look desperate as can be right now and to make matters worse, they are not likely to land a long-term deal with Dwight. Let’s just say it sucks when you let an All-Star run a great coach out of town and then you don’t get to keep the All-Star. Doing “the right thing” is a lose-lose situation for Orlando, unfortunately.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Yes and no. Otis yes, Stan no. I understand the organization felt like they needed to cross this Rubicon to have any shot of keeping Dwight, so it makes sense. But Stan — Dwight’s petulance not withstanding — was always more solution than problem.
Matt Scribbins, Magic Basketball: Yes and no. The Magic would have been better off by keeping the Stan Van Gundy era going, but it was probably time for a change in the position Otis held. They won’t get a better coach than SVG, but they may be able to improve at general manager.
Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: Yes and no. Otis needed to go, as his most recent moves have proven ill-conceived and he’d sunk the team’s chances to upgrade the roster; Orlando doesn’t have any great trade assets besides Dwight Howard. Getting rid of Stan makes less sense to me, given the great success to which he guided the Magic in his five seasons. But if he was ready to move on, then it’s hard to argue either choice.
Who should be the next head coach for the Magic?
Drexler: Filling Stan Van Gundy’s shoes is about as hard as filling Dwight Howard’s, but how about Bill Cartwright? It might go a long way to have a quasi-legend at the helm and Cartwright coached under the Zen Master for a little while.
Nowell: I guess I don’t have any idea. I’d think that since the organization is starting over, they’d want to hire a younger coach that will, in theory, grow with and around Dwight Howard. That’d be the pitch I would make him, anyway.
Scribbins: If the Magic can keep Dwight Howard and get him to buy into the plan, then I think the team should pursue Jerry Sloan. Please take a minute to check out his career stats. He makes the playoffs nearly every year and I see no reason that trend would not continue under his direction in Orlando.
Dunlap: I’m a fan of either Brian Shaw or Mike Malone. I like the idea of bringing in a younger guy, even if he doesn’t have coaching experience. The Magic need some youthfulness and if they can’t get it on the court, they can at least have it roaming the sidelines. I prefer either of those options to a guy like Nate McMillan or Mike D’Antoni. They’re good coaches with solid track records, but I think a fresher voice is what’s needed in that locker room.
Who should be the next general manager for the Magic?
Drexler: In my fantasy world? Find a way to seduce Donnie Walsh to become president of the Magic, with Kevin Pritchard operating under him as the general manager.
Nowell: Adonal Foyle, so that the entrance to Amway becomes a gallery showing traveling exhibitions of French Impressionists and the P.A. is replaced with a symphony. General managers do that stuff, right?
Scribbins: Shaq. Just kidding.
Dunlap: In contrast with my approach to head-coaching, I prefer a front-office vet who knows the proverbial ropes. Donnie Walsh is the right man for a team president job: a well-respected guy with decades of experience. For the so-called day-to-day tasks, I like a guy like Jeff Bower: proven and hard-working. Investing in another assistant GM, like Tony Ronzone — he who brokered Ricky Rubio’s deal with the Timberwolves –could diversify the front-office.