|The departures of Van Gundy (right) and Smith don't mean Dwight Howard will stay in Orlando. (Getty Images)|
No surprise. The events in Orlando on Monday should be no surprise at all.
You knew Stan Van Gundy was gone, and rumblings had grown stronger in recent weeks that the Magic were considering a major overhaul of the front office. This would result in, at the very least, the hiring of a team president to oversee general manager Otis Smith.
The other option, which Magic CEO Alex Martins announced Monday after the recent annual meetings of the DeVos family in Grand Rapids, Mich., was to just blow the whole thing up.
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Van Gundy: Gone.
Next up: Dwight Howard.
That's how I see it, anyway. According to two people familiar with the Magic's strategy, the departure of Van Gundy and Smith does not necessarily mean Howard is staying in Orlando. Similarly, if the Magic had chosen to keep Van Gundy and/or Smith, it wouldn't necessarily have signaled that Howard was gone.
My opinion has been all along that they would all be gone -- at least Van Gundy and Howard. It is the scorched-earth inevitability when a superstar of Howard's caliber wants out. There's nothing left when he goes. (See James, LeBron; Brown, Mike; and Ferry, Danny.)
Same model. Different names. Same result.
So the Magic embark on a coaching and front-office search, and there should be no shortage of big names and capable people available. Former Hornets GM Jeff Bower, who has interviewed twice for the Trail Blazers' GM post, vaults to the top of the list to replace Smith. Bower and Martins worked together in New Orleans, and Bower is widely regarded as one of the shrewdest executives in the business. David Morway, the Pacers' GM who also has interviewed twice for the Portland job, should be considered.
Former Knicks president Donnie Walsh is eager to work again and could provide some much needed stability at a critical time, with a day-to-day GM beneath him (i.e. former Warriors GM Chris Mullin, Pacers assistant Kevin Pritchard and/or Nuggets cap expert Pete Alessandro). Bucks GM John Hammond is highly regarded, but the Bucks recently denied the Trail Blazers' request for permission to interview him. Among the up-and-coming names, Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver is rising to prominence as a key right-hand man to GM Sam Presti.
As for the head coaching spot left vacant by Van Gundy, who immediately will gain consideration for multiple head coaching jobs if he wants to work next season, the most highly regarded coach candidates on the rise are Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Warriors assistant Michael Malone, whose father, Brendan, was on Van Gundy's staff in Orlando.
Should the Magic consult with Howard on who the next coach and GM should be? In theory, that's a good idea. But indications are strong that Howard's leaving anyway, so from here this looks like a complete revamping of the organization from top to bottom. The Magic will offer Howard an extension, and if he balks -- as expected -- the new GM's first order of business will be to trade him this summer.
Fun stuff. Scorched-earth kind of stuff, as it usually is when superstars want to leave.