HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — At least Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith will get to walk out of the door together in Orlando.
In what has to rank as the least surprising move of this NBA season, both the Orlando Magic coach and general manager, respectively, parted ways with the organization this afternoon. Van Gundy was relieved of his duties after five seasons with the organization and Smith came to a mutual agreement with the organization to end his tenure, the Magic announced via their website:
“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 [Magic CEO Alex] 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 last 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.”
Martins, the man credited with keeping Dwight Howard in the fold at the trade deadline, when Howard could have opted out of the final year of his current contract and become a free agent this summer, is now tasked with rebuilding the front office and coaching staff in an image that pleases Howard.
Howard had been asking the Magic to fire Van Gundy since last summer. And Van Gundy nailed down his pink slip on April 5, when he admitted as much to reporters at a morning shootaround. This after months of everyone, Van Gundy included, claiming to have no knowledge of the festering rumors of Howard’s demand.
Howard’s season ended two games later when back spasms forced him out of the Magic lineup. He had surgery April 20 to repair a bulging disc in his lower back and the Magic lost to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs while Howard was in Los Angeles recovering and rehabilitating after his surgery.
Now comes the speculation about potential replacements for both Van Gundy and Smith, and both lists will be long and include all of the hot names floating around.