Stan Van Gundy got tired of living the lies. So, on Thursday, the Orlando Magic's coach let everyone know the truth: Dwight Howard has asked for him to be fired multiple times.
Speaking to a group of reporters in advance of Thursday night's game between the New York Knicks and Magic in Orlando, Van Gundy made no bones about it. Orlando's All-Star center, who waffled in his trade demands earlier this season, has indeed requested that Magic ownership fire Van Gundy, currently in his fifth season with the team.
Van Gundy's statements confirmed a report that first broke on Wednesday and were captured on an NBA.com video.
"I was told it was true by people in our management," Van Gundy said. "Right from the top."
"Since everything came out yesterday," Van Gundy said, referencing the report that Howard had demanded that ownership make a coaching change. "You know you're going to get asked and think about how you're going to respond and the whole thing. The only thing I'm ever uncomfortable with is bullls***. To come in and 'no comment' or deny that it's true and everything like that... The only thing that ever liberates me is to be honest with what's out there. Some people have a hard time with that. To me that's a lot easier to deal with than bulls***."
if Van Gundy was upset by all of this, he didn't show it. He made his comments in a steady voice while sipping on a can of soda.
"You guys think that's crazy but that's honestly the truth," he said. "I said this before, I don't care about that stuff. It's 12:02 right now, if they want to fire me at 12:05, I'll go home and find something to do. I'll go home and have a good day. What I'm worried about is at 7 o'clock tonight, are we going to be able to guard Carmelo Anthony? That concerns the hell out of me."
Midway through Van Gundy's comments, Howard came over and put his arm around his coach. Shortly thereafter, Van Gundy exited stage left.
|Stan Van Gundy tells reporters that Dwight Howard wants him to be fired. (NBA.com video)|
With Van Gundy gone, Howard took center stage, and it appeared that he was unaware of what Van Gundy had revealed to the media. He went on to deny the report, despite reporters telling him directly on multiple occasions that Van Gundy had just confirmed it.
"The only thing that we're concerned with is winning a championship right now," Howard said. "Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control. I am a player for the Magic. I am not a GM. I'm not [owner] Rich DeVos. I'm not [chairman] Alex Martins. Guys can stop with, every other week, trying to find something. Because it's nothing. It's nothing. I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is about winning. All that other stuff should stop."
Howard then sniped at a reporter who tried to point out the apparent contradiction.
"I said that? Who did I say that to? I'm asking you, since you guys have so many sources," he said."
Later, in video captured by the Orlando Sentinel, Howard struck a confused, defensive posture.
"Where's the positive story?" he wondered aloud. "Everything is negative and it shouldn't be and I'm to blame or it has something to do with me. I woke up just like you did yesterday and saw they said that I want Stan out of here. Why would I want Stan to be fired with 12 games left in the season? Who's going to be the coach?"
Despite the clearly uncomfortable scene, Van Gundy tried to characterize the soap opera like any interoffice drama.
"I'll bet in this group, that we have at least one person here who has an issue with their boss and maybe doesn't like them," Van Gundy said. "Maybe one person in this group. And still works hard and does a very good job. That's normal, everyday life for everybody. That's no different for anybody else. What matters is how people approach their job and do it on the floor. You're playing for your own pride, your teammates more than anything else."
Van Gundy also noted that ownership and management have not addressed his job status with him.
"They haven't told me anything and they don't need to," Van Gundy said. "I'm the coach right now and I'm the coach until they decide I'm not the coach. They don't need to tell me anything and I don't expect them to tell me anything."
So is he sweating the inevitable ax?
"They have to make the decision but I ain't worried about that," he said.
Video hat tip: YouTube user ybrekyert