Second Option, Best Choice
Posted Dec 20 2007 12:18PM
By Lauren Brill
Dec. 20, 2007 -- On May 23, 2007 Orlando relieved head coach Brian Hill of his head coaching duties and the Magic's search for a replacement began. With the state of Florida celebrating the Gators' second consecutive NCAA Championship, Florida coach Billy Donovan was the frontrunner for the open position. Once Orlando made him an offer the championship coach quickly accepted. But soon after Donovan relinquished his new title and returned to Gainesville to continue his tenure there.
Back at square one, Orlando turned to another well-known Florida basketball connoisseur. Former Heat coach, Stan Van Gundy had an impressive resume and was unemployed. After turning down several other NBA offers, Van Gundy saw promise in the Magic's roster and agreed to become Orlando's new head coach. Still under contract with the Heat, Orlando made a deal with Miami and locked up the Heat's former chief.
Orlando GM Otis Smith explained, “Stan (Van Gundy) enjoyed tremendous success during his tenure with the Heat,” said Smith. “He has a great basketball mind, tremendous respect around the league and will get the most out of our players. Stan was sought-after by many teams this summer and we feel very proud to welcome him to the Magic family.”
Despite being Orlando's No.2 option, Van Gundy appears to have been the perfect pick for the young squad. Starting off the season winning 14 of 17 games, Orlando is currently 18-9, good for the fifth best record in the league. On Nov. 10, the Magic were put to the test and passed, ending Boston's 8-0 run with a 104-102 victory at Amway Arena.
Under Van Gundy's leadership Orlando's players are discovering their potential. Four-year veteran, Dwight Howard is averaging 23.5 points, 2.7 blocks and 15.1 rebounds, by far registering the best numbers in his career. Many worried how teammate and newly acquired Rashard Lewis would fit into the mix but Van Gundy has worked him in nicely, as he is currently averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 rebounds. Forward Hedo Turkoglu has also improved under Van Gundy's system, averaging 18.7 points, nearly eight points above his career average.
According to the Miami Herald the best is yet to come, "Van Gundy's biggest influence hasn't even kicked in yet. His teams get better as the season progresses," claimed Miami Herald writer Michael Wallace. "They finish much stronger than they start."
Despite hitting a rough patch in the month of December, the 2005 Eastern Conference All-Star coach has created an atmosphere and system that has allowed his players to excel and defeat top teams. While, he may have been the second option for his current head coach position, he looks to have been the best choice.