Stan Van Gundy, who lost his coaching job as part of the “Dwightmare” saga that surrounded the Orlando Magic, said in a radio interview Monday that CEO Alex Martins showed “naivete” in his belief that the coach could not relate to players.
Van Gundy appeared Monday morning on Orlando Sentinel writer Mike Bianchi’s show on 740 AM. He was fired by Martins after Orlando’s first-round playoff exit to Indiana – without the injured Dwight Howard – following his fifth straight winning season with the Magic.
“It’s a typical lack of understanding from someone who has no sports knowledge, who has never coached or played, who has never been in a locker room. … it’s a naivete,” Van Gundy said.
“I’ll stand on the relationships with players based on the results we got. … I think Alex’s comments are based on the fact that Dwight and maybe others didn’t like me … and thinking somehow that’s important.”
Van Gundy played collegiately at tiny SUNY Brockport and is a coaching lifer. In seven-plus seasons coaching the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, he never has had a losing campaign, compiling a 371-208 record and guiding the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals.
In April, Van Gundy told reporters that he knew Howard had gone to management and asked for the coach to be fired. A very awkward situation ensued moments later when Howard threw his arm around the coach while stunned reporters were still circled around them.
Howard ultimately was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team blockbuster that netted young players, draft picks and cap relief for the Magic, who clearly are rebuilding.
Here’s some other tidbits from Van Gundy’s interview:
- He said the team’s culture and values changed after former CEO Bob Vander Weide retired and was replaced by Martins. “When Bob left, it really became Alex over everything,” he said.
- He faulted management and ownership’s handling of Howard’s virtually interminable situation, implying that it impacted how the team performed. “In an effort, I guess, to make Dwight happy and everything else, we compromised a lot of the culture and values we had before that,” he said. “It’s always a mistake when you compromise those things … everything goes south. It was no longer a team-first thing. It was inevitable things would not go as well.”
- He said GM Otis Smith – also not retained following the season – saw how Howard’s situation would play out before anybody but had his hands tied by those above him.
- “There were various times it could have happened,” he said. “(Otis) saw this whole thing coming long before the season started. It ultimately ended up not being his choice.”
- Van Gundy also pointed the finger at himself, admitting that he and Howard had their differences. “Dwight and I had some things he wasn’t happy with and there were some things I wasn’t happy with,” he said.
- And the coach took some responsibility for how the drama played out. “I’ll take my share of the blame and management needs to take theirs,” he said.