HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Their names will be linked in Orlando sports lore forever, former Magic superstar center Dwight Howard and former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
But it won’t always be about their messy divorce and departure from the Magic. On at least one account, the former player and coach will come together to help bolster the future for students in the Orlando area, the Seminole County School system to be exact.
It turns out that Howard and Van Gundy do have a common interest outside of winning a Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Diametrically opposed on so many issues, Howard and Van Gundy are political allies (the combatants in contests across the nation in this election year need to take notice) when it comes to helping preserve the property tax base that helps fund the school system.
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel informed us all of this rather intriguing arrangement between these two men:
If you read my column last week, you know Van Gundy is the chairman of a political group in Seminole County called Citizens for Preservation of Property Values. The goal of the group is to increase property taxes in Seminole County to help preserve the area’s traditionally strong public school system — a system that has been decimated by $73 million in budget cuts over the past five years. In the Nov. 6 general election, Seminole voters will decide whether to approve a 1-mill increase in property taxes for four years beginning a year from now. The increase would bring in as much as $25 million annually to the school district.
Van Gundy says Dwight, who was recently traded to the Lakers, is going to lend some financial backing to the cause.
“Dwight has pledged his support,” Van Gundy said Monday during an interview on our Open Mike radio show on 740 The Game. “He’s a resident of Seminole County, and he’s keeping his house here. I think his history will show that he’s had great concern for kids in the Central Florida community. With him still living here, we asked him to help and he didn’t hesitate.”
Surprisingly to some, both Stan and Dwight say they are on good terms and have been communicating regularly over the last several weeks. Van Gundy even texted Howard and wished him good luck after he was traded to L.A.
“We are on good terms and always were,” Van Gundy says. “Whatever our disagreements happened to be, they were on the professional level — they were about basketball and our jobs. Personally, we never had a problem. We liked each other. I have great admiration for the things Dwight did in the community and for the way he involved himself with kids. I really do want the best for him, and I think that’s mutual.”
Howard, in a recent interview with ESPN’s Ric Bucher, echoed those sentiments.
“To this day, Stan and I talk and we have a relationship, and I’m happy about that,” Dwight said. “We have a mutal respect for each other. We had five great years together. It didn’t end right and it didn’t end well, but we’ve moved on and we’re happy for each other.”
If Howard and Van Gundy can find a way to come together and fight on common ground, we have to believe there is hope for all of the peculiar political bedfellows out there.
Who’ll be next?
Maybe it’ll be the Republicans and Democrats, the global warming crowd and their haters or maybe even the Lakers and Celtics … ah, never mind!
All jokes aside, kudos to both Howard and Van Gundy for the work they’ll do for the students of Seminole County.