Over the next few weeks Orlando Magic Daily will be taking a look at the things that went right and wrong this season as Orlando ended its season with a disappointing first-round loss to Indiana.
The season was a circus from the very beginning.
First there was Bob Vander Weide having a little too much fun at a party and sending an unprofessional text message or phone call to Dwight Howard. Then there was the emotional roller coaster of indecision that was Dwight Howard.
Those are all things that went wrong and will get their own post. The one thing that went right in all this was something that happened on a sunny day in early April at shootaround.
The rumors, as they usuall do, were flying around the franchise again as the season was bubbling up (something need to stir the pot, I guess to keep the water from spilling over). Stan Van Gundy elected to be that guy.
Responding to a report from Dave Pingalore of WKMG News Channel 6, a reporter asked Van Gundy if the rumors that Howard had gone to management to ask for Van Gundy’s firing were true. It is the kind of question that reporters have to ask even though they know it annoys the players and coaches and they will get a flat-out denial.
This season, being as wacky as it was, that is not what happened.
Van Gundy answered openly and honestly saying that he was told by someone within the organization that the meeting took place (information that was later confirmed with Orlando Magic Daily by a source with knowledge of the front office’s thinking at that time), it shocked everybody.
The airing of the Magic’s dirty laundry in full display of the public was another embarassing misstep in a “trying” season that everyone would like to forget. But with everyone sticking to the party line and telling half truths or (likely) outright lies to save face in the public eye, it was kind of nice to see Van Gundy finally stick his neck out and call “BS” on everything that was going on in the franchise.
It might have been akin to raising your hand to test out the guillotine (in the end, Van Gundy did get chopped and you get the feeling with it looking more and more like Howard is gone anyway, that the firing had some to do with the public way he outed the Magic), but it was refreshing.
Stan Van Gundy was never one to mince words. He always said exactly what he was thinking, and not even politics in an incredibly tight spot was going to stop him in this case.
All anybody wants in complex situations like this is for people to be straight with them. Fans do not like seeing politics and jockeying work their way into sports. These games are, after all, about incredibly simple things and, ultimately, are an escape and a source of entertainment.
What bugged everyone about this season was how hard both the Magic and Dwight Howard worked to come out looking like the good guy. It led to statements that played to both sides, half truths and outright lies. It was frustrating, because it was clear to those who watched closely that someone was outright lying with all the contradictory statements.
It may have hurt the Magic in the short-term. It may have been what got Stan Van Gundy fired. It may also be what ultimately pushes Howard out of Orlando — he reportedly was extremely upset that the franchise did not speak louder to refute the report and defend his side of the story… even though Van Gundy is a pretty reliable source with no reason to lie about that in a public manner and the whispers were there about this kind of a meeting long before Van Gundy went public with it (you see, half-truths and outright lies).
In a scenario where everyone was looking to curry public favor — a contest many would have won if they had just kept quiet and ducked their heads to get their work done — the one guy who told the truth was the real winner.
Stan Van Gundy by finally and fatally speaking up and calling BS on everything the Magic did this season — read: cow-towing to Dwight and trying to do everything to, as Jeff Van Gundy put it, appease him to stay, giving Howard all the power in the relationship — endeared himself more to Magic fans.
The superstar player always wins these debates in front offices (ultimately, more people come to Magic games to see Howard than Van Gundy), but everyone stood behind Van Gundy for those few weeks and thanked him for breaking away from the charade that seemed plain insulting to Magic fans at times.
Van Gundy would have no more of the will-he-won’t-he roller coaster that was the Dwight Howard saga. He asked for off and went down in a blaze of glory.
We should all be so lucky.