Monday marked the end of an era with the Orlando Magic; as well as the first step in a process to reenergize the franchise, as the “Orlando Sentinel” reported that the team has fired head coach Stan Van Gundy while coming to an agreement to part company with General Manager Otis Smith. The moves end months of speculation that began with reports from a Orlando TV station that Van Gundy would be dismissed at the end of the season per the request of All-Star center Dwight Howard. As a result of showing their former bench boss the door, the Magic may get the premier center in the Association to sign a long-term contract extension with the club.
The tandem brought success to the squad as they helped transform the Magic into one of the most dominant clubs in the Eastern Conference over the past few years; including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Smith had been with the team for six seasons while Van Gundy had been the bench boss for the last five years. He was hired as a last-minute replacement after University Of Florida head coach Billy Donovan accepted the position, then reneged on his decision.
Orlando Team CEO Alex Martins released a statement on the moves by the franchise. Martins said “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. These are the days you dread in this business, but we feel it’s time for new leadership and new voices. 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.”
Although getting knocked out of the Playoffs in the first round may have been the determining factor to part ways with Smith and to a certain extent their head coach; Van Gundy may have set his dismissal in motion during the regular season after telling reporters that he was told by team management that Howard wanted him fired at the end of the campaign. Reportedly his decision to share that with the media, infuriated the big man and would end any chance of the two reconciling their differences.
The former head coach of the Miami Heat leaves the team with a record of 259-157 during the regular season and 31-28 in the Playoffs; making him the winningest coach since the team came into existence. There is no doubt about his knowledge of the game as well as his being one of the best strategists in the Association. The problem however is he can be very loud and abrasive and he shoots from the hip with his opinions; sometimes without thinking about the ramifications of his words. He may have to transform into a “Kinder And Gentler” Stan Van Gundy to find further success in the Association.
Smith had built one of the strongest front-courts in the Association as he had D-Howard matched up with Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis on the team that went to the Finals in 2009. With the luxury of having Howard in the middle; Smith could use two wing players as his forwards, which made it difficult for most teams to guard them all. Turkoglu signed a Free Agent deal with the Toronto Raptors in the Summer of 2009 and the team never reached the heights it once had after that. He could become a candidate for the vacant General Manager position with the Portland Trail Blazers.