Conventional wisdom says now that Stan Van Gundy is out in Orlando, prima donna center Dwight Howard will help the Magic select their next coach and, assuming he’s happy with his choice, re-up with the team for the long haul.
But conventional wisdom was noticeably absent in Orlando this season. Drama, however, was all over the place.
Assuming Orlando’s All-Star center did want his coach gone — as Van Gundy told the media, during that incredibly awkward interview last month — then Howard got his wish. With the way their season unraveled, the Magic may have had no choice but to fire Van Gundy, but their decision will be viewed as a move designed to please their star player. Of course if Howard were to leave when his contract is up at the end of next season, the Magic may be kicking themselves for dumping a coach who led them to the postseason in each of his five seasons.
But you know what they say about hindsight...
Magic CEO Alex Martins — who delivered the news to Van Gundy in a phone call rather than a face-to-face meeting — did his best to refute the widespread belief that Howard’s damaged relationship with Van Gundy played a role in the firing.
“I am saying in no uncertain terms that Dwight did not want to be part of this decision,” Martins said Monday. “He didn’t not want to make this decision. He never asked me to make this decision. ... Dwight Howard never asked me to fire Stan Van Gundy.”
But Martins also acknowledged the Magic’s path forward is directly tied to whether Howard commits to the team by signing a contract extension.
“The decision is up to Dwight now,” Martins said. “Dwight needs to decide where his future lies. It’s been well-documented what our desires are. Now Dwight needs to decide what his are.”
As Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi wrote, the ball is officially in Howard’s court.
You are now the de facto coach and general manager of the team. You are calling the shots now. The flagging franchise is in your hands. You can either heal it and bring it back to life by signing a contract extension or you can squash it by abandoning it to go play for Jay-Z’s team in New York.
What’s it going to be, Dwight?
Was this a smart move by the Magic, or was it foolish to cave to the whim of one player? At this point, did they have a choice?