|The Magic cleaned house on Monday, firing coach Stan Van Gundy and parting ways with GM Otis Smith. (Getty Images)|
Free at last.
The Orlando Magic have fired coach Stan Van Gundy after five years as head coach and parted ways with Otis Smith after six years following a tumultuous 2011-2012 season.
The team announced the moves in a statement on Monday.
Orlando Magic Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins announced today that Stan Van Gundy has been relieved of his duties as head coach. In addition President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Otis Smith and the organization have mutually agreed to part ways.Van Gundy, 52, guided Orlando to the 2009 NBA Finals and posted a record of 259-135 (.657) during his time in Orlando. He previously coached the Miami Heat for 2-plus seasons and now holds a career coaching record of 371-208 (.641). The Magic failed to advance out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in the last two seasons.
"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 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."
Smith, 48, played six seasons in the NBA before being named GM of the Magic in 2006. His major moves included drafting J.J. Redick, acquiring Rashard Lewis in a sign-and-trade, acquiring Ryan Anderson in a trade, trading away Hedo Turkoglu and then re-acquiring him, trading for Vince Carter and then trading him away, trading for and re-signing Jason Richardson and trading for and extending Glen Davis.
After the Magic were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in 5 games back in May, Van Gundy said that he wanted to return as coach of the Magic.
"Yeah, I want to come back, but that's not up to me," he said to the Bright House Sports Network. "As far as the speculation, I'd say the same thing I've been saying all year -- who gives a damn. They'll make a decision when they make a decision. I'm not going to worry about it, I'll tell you that. As long as I'm coaching I'll continue to do my work and I'll get ready for next year. If they want to make a change, make a change. That's up to them."
The writing had been on the wall for Van Gundy for months as All-Star center Dwight Howard reportedly went to Magic ownership and management on multiple occasions seeking an ownership change. A report surfaced in March that the Magic had agreed to let Howard hand-pick his next coach and GM.
The situation came to a head on April 5, when Van Gundy confirmed to a large group of reporters that Howard had sought his removal as coach, saying that he had heard the news "from the top" of the organization.
"You guys think that's crazy but that's honestly the truth," Van Gundy told reporters in April. "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."
With cameras rolling, Howard joined the press conference and -- not knowing what Van Gundy had said -- denied that he had ever said that.
"It's nothing. It's nothing," he said. "I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is about winning. All that other stuff should stop."
Howard then bristled when a reporter pointed out the contradiction between Van Gundy's statement and his.
"I said that? Who did I say that to? I'm asking you, since you guys have so many sources," he said.
Smith attempted to publicly mend the fences between coach and star but the damage was clearly done.
The unbearably awkward scene symbolized the organization's dysfunctional season, as Howard first publicly requested a trade and then ultimately opted in with the Magic for 2012-2013 at the March trade deadline. Howard later underwent back surgery that prevented him from playing in the 2012 playoffs.
Van Gundy will enter the coaching free agent market as one of the top names, alongside the likes of Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan.