It appears this is decision week for the Magic and the beginning of determining where the franchise is going to go. The process of deconstructing the 2012 season on this blog will begin later this week. The questions surrounding the Magic after they were bounced out of the Playoffs unceremoniously.
The Dwight Howard questions that will embroil the Magic this summer begin with the question of who will be the head coach.
As I reported earlier, management and ownership is going to meet this week and a decision regarding Stan Van Gundy‘s future could be made by the end of the week. There are no guarantees which direction the franchise will be moving or that the public will know that direction.
What is assumed is that there will be some very deep discussions about Stan Van Gundy‘s future and that what happens to the team’s head coach may come down first. What is even further assumed, judging by some of the awkwardness that transpired throughout the season and the surreal moment in early April when Van Gundy revealed Howard had gone to Magic management and asked that Van Gundy be fired, is that it has become an either/or proposition when it comes to Dwight Howard.
Considering that the Magic and Alex Martins worked so hard to convince Howard to come off his trade demand and decline his early termination option, it is also pretty safe to assume that the Magic are still going to do everything they can to retain Dwight Howard. The assumption among many is that this means Van Gundy will be gone.
This may not be a foregone conclusion.
A source told Orlando Magic Daily that the firing of Otis Smith is expected this week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. This same source said that Van Gundy’s fate may not be so simple. It appears that the franchise will try and talk to Dwight Howard first and then make a decision on whether they will keep Howard and fire Van Gundy or trade Howard and keep Van Gundy or, perhaps unthinkably, retaining both.
It does not appear Howard will have a final decision on Van Gundy’s future. But his input will be considered as the main goal of keeping Howard appears to remain.
Even if that comes at Van Gundy’s expense.
“Stan is a hell of a basketball coach,” Otis Smith said at last week’s exit interviews. “The question is does he deserve to be retained as a coach? Sure. He has done everything we have asked him to do as a coach and then some. He is one of the best basketball coaches and basketball minds I’ve been around in a long time.”
Van Gundy and Howard working together seems impossible now after Van Gundy outed Howard to the media and said that Howard had asked management to fire him. There were several reports that Howard was very angry with Van Gundy for going public with the Magic’s inner workings. This was where the (ludicrous) rumors that Howard was faking his injury were born from.
Either way, there are legitimate questions of whether Howard and Van Gundy can co-exist in the future. At exit interviews, the tenor of the conversation was that the relationship can continue.
“I think they did co-exist this year. We won a lot of games,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “And so, in that regard, I think they proved that they could. Because at the end of the day, it is about winning. If they can win together, they can co-exist. We’ll just have to evaluate whether that can be done again going forward.”
There is that evaluation word again. This is all a part of the postseason evaluations and so it will be difficult to move forward until those decisions are made.
Martins was echoing Van Gundy’s sentiments about the relationship between coach and star player. Van Gundy said he judges his professional relationship with Howard based on wins. And considering that Van Gundy is the only coach in the franchise’s 23-year history to last five seasons and is the franchise’s winningest coach, Van Gundy would say the team has been very successful. And Howard undoubtedly is a big part of that.
“Our relationship is this: When you’re talking a professional relationship, what matters, at least to me, is the results,” Stan Van Gundy said last week at exit interviews. “I don’t care if it’s a business relationship where two people at work are driving a business to make money or if it’s a sports relationship where the object is to win games. Those kind of professional relationships should be based on results not on whether people like each other or whatever.
“To me, the relationship was great. There were a lot of wins and everything else. Dwight would have to comment from his side on what he thinks is important. But to me, it’s all about results and that’s all I cared about and that’s all I tried to get. I thought we got very good results he and I together.”
And that is where the question lies for the moment — with Dwight Howard.
Orlando appears to be waiting to talk to Howard and begin assessing his future with the franchise before making a move with Van Gundy. Surely the team wants to have a new management and coaching staff in place before the draft. And so the organization has to move quickly and make an informed decision.
If Howard says he can play with Van Gundy as his coach for another year, all will be well. If he does not… well, then a decision has to be made.