Denton: Stan Says Dwight Wants Him Fired; Howard Denies It

By John Denton
April 5, 2012

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he’s been told by team management that superstar center Dwight Howard wants him fired, an accusation that the six-time all-star center denied just minutes after Van Gundy’s admission.

Just minutes after Van Gundy acknowledged that Howard has asked for him to be fired the Magic’s center joined the media fray and put his arm around the coach in an attempt to deflect the uproar. Howard had no idea that Van Gundy had just informed the media that his star player had asked for the head coach to be fired.

``Yes, I know that he has (asked for him to be fired),’’ Van Gundy said. ``So that’s just the way that it is. I’ve been dealing with that all year and that’s not something that is really bothersome. You go out and do your job.’’

Asked how he knew that Howard had requested the firing, Van Gundy said: ``I was told it was true by people in our management, right from the top. They haven’t told me anything (about a potential firing) and they don’t need to. I’m the coach right now and I’m the coach until I’m not the coach. They don’t need to tell me anything. I don’t expect them to tell me anything. What I expect is for us to play better defense tonight.’’

Howard attempted to shoot down the talk of his coach being potentially fired. He denied he’s talked to management about getting Van Gundy, his coach in Orlando the past five seasons, fired from his job.

``I said that? Who did I say that to? I’m asking (the media) since you guys have so many sources,’’ Howard said. ``I didn’t hear anything and I’m just telling you. What did I just say yesterday?

``The only thing we’re concerned with right now is a winning a championship,’’ Howard continued. ``Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control. I am a player, I am not the GM, I am not Rich DeVos, I am not Alex Martins. So it’s not my job. So you guys should stop with the every other week trying to find something. I haven’t said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is winning so all of that other stuff should be about winning.’’

The Magic host the New York Knicks tonight at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center. Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said he wasn’t aware of Howard making a demand that Van Gundy be fired and that no transactions were imminent.

``Stan is still our coach, Dwight is still a player and this is just another chapter that’s been going on since the beginning of the season,’’ said Smith, who stressed that a demand for a coaching change was never made to him. ``Regardless of what has been asked, Stan is still the coach of this basketball team, so that’s where we are.

``(Caving to a player’s demand) is not how I do business,’’ Smith continued. ``Everyone has a role. Player play, coaches coach and general managers manage the process, but sometimes lines get blurred. Coaches never play, but players sometimes think they can coach. … I don’t know the alternatives. The choices are to keep going this way or change (coaches), but what are you changing into? I think the coach has done a very good job with the team that he has. We’re not playing very good basketball right now, so (Van Gundy) is frustrated.’’

The Magic (32-22) endured a daily drama early in the season as it waited to see if Howard would remain with the team past the March 15 trade deadline. Howard requested a trade prior to the season and stuck to those demands much of the year. But he ultimately signed a waiver that voided the opt-out clause in his contract, meaning his contract with the Magic would extend through next season.

The rumors and distractions were constant, but the Magic remarkably played well throughout and compiled the third best record in the Eastern Conference. A recent four-game swoon – two of which came while Howard was out with a back injury – dropped the Magic to fifth in the East. A team that thought it was finished with the daily drama after the trade deadline is now squarely back in the throes of controversy.

``It’s so dramatic, it’s so dramatic. It’s like we’re in a movie or something,’’ Magic power forward Ryan Anderson said.

Howard said he doesn’t think the player vs. coach drama should distract the Magic from their goal of making a deep run in the playoffs.

``Everything is negative now and it shouldn’t be. And I’m the blame or has something to do with it,’’ Howard said. ``I woke up yesterday just like everybody else did and saw something that said I want Stan out of here. Why would I want Stan to be fired with 12 games left in the season? Who is going to be the coach? We’re trying to win.

``The only thing that matters right now is that me and Stan are on the same page and that everybody else buys into what we have to do to win,’’ Howard continued.

``That’s the only way we’re going to get it done. We’re not going to let whatever is being put out there and what is said in the media stop us. We’re the guys in the locker room and we’re the guys that matter and we’re together. We’re going to buy into what Stan says and try to get it done.’’

Van Gundy admitted that his coaching staff is worried about its long-term future in Orlando, but said he wasn’t concerned about his potential outcome because of his financial security and his feeling that he could easily land another NBA coaching job.

``It’s not a matter of (Howard) being committed to me; it’s a matter of being committed to the team and trying to do everything that you can to help the team win games,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I don’t need love and support here at my job; I’ll turn to my family for that. I don’t need these guys giving me hugs and pats on the back.

``You move on. What is important right now is that we play basketball better and that’s where our focus needs to be,’’ Van Gundy went on. ``There doesn’t need to be any focus on my job security. Nobody has to worry about me and I’ll be fine. If I need to, I can get another job. I have money put away, so there’s no concern about my job security and there should be no concern about what Dwight wants right now. What it’s about is everyone of us have to work our (tails) off every single day to get better as a team to get ready for the playoffs. That’s what it has to stay about.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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