Breaking: Orlando Magic fire Van Gundy, let Smith walk

Stan Van Gundy

The appeasement of Dwight Howard is in full swing in Orlando.  

In a statement released by the team, they have announced the dismissal of head coach Stan Van Gundy and the departure of General Manager Otis Smith.

“On behalf of the DeVos Family, we sincerely appreciate and thank Otis and Stan for all that they have done on and off the floor for the Orlando Magic,” said Martins.   “These are the days you dread in this business, but we feel it’s time for new leadership and new voices.

“They both brought die-hard dedication and an unmatched work ethic on a daily basis,” added Martins.  “Their success is well documented, as the Orlando Magic has had the fourth best record in the NBA over the lst five years, and entering the playoffs this year the third most playoff wins over that period of time.  The disappointment of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs these past two seasons played a primary role in our decision, as we feel our momentum towards winning a championship has paused.  We wish Otis and Stan all the best and we look forward to taking the next step towards winning that championship.”

Stan Van Gundy has won nearly 66% of his games in Orlando.  And while he shares in some of the blame for Orlando not getting over the hump, the decision to let Dwight Howard essentially run the franchise is disconcerting.  These moves rarely end well for the offending franchise, because player appeasement caters to the fickle whims of superstars. 

The departure of Smith is more understandable.  Some of his moves have smacked of desperation, leaving Orlando with a bloated roster and virtually un-tradeable pieces that have saddled the franchise with limited maneuverability… and that’s AFTER Gilbert Arenas was cut via the amnesty clause.

There is no word from the team yet as to replacements.  The indication is that this team will try to build around Howard as the cornerstone again.  The team is not only over the cap, they are in luxury tax territory.  They have tough decisions to make with Ryan Anderson (will they tender the $3 million qualifying offer) and the futures of players like JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson.  And, of course, there’s the elephant in the room:  Can they re-sign Dwight Howard or is he gone after this year. 

Stan Van Gundy deserves a lot of credit for holding the Magic together in the face of this ridiculous drama.  We’ll now get to see just how good a job he did, as the team will go through it again this season with a new coach at the helm, and a superstar emboldened with the feeling that he controls the franchise.

Philip Rossman-Reich contributed to this report