Bernucca: Jackson’s Resume Alone Not Nearly Enough To Fix Knicks


220px-Isiah_ThomasPhil Jackson won’t be awful as president of the New York Knicks. He certainly won’t be as bad as Isiah Thomas was in running the club. And he will almost certainly be better than David Kahn, Bryan Colangelo, Joe Dumars, Otis Smith and Geoff Petrie have been in recent years.

But Phil Jackson isn’t Isiah Thomas, or David Kahn, or Bryan Colangelo. He’s Phil Jackson, with a reputation of all things basketball that he touches turning to gold.

And that’s exactly what Knicks fans – now with three generations of folks waiting for another NBA title – will expect from Jackson.

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Stan Van Gundy calls Magic CEO Alex Martins “naive”

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Stan Van Gundy with handsStan 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.


Exclusive: Magic are ready to trade Howard


I’ve already told you that Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, and now I have another piece of info to report.

A plugged-in league source tells that the feeling is mutual, and Orlando is prepared to trade him sooner rather than later.

The source said that when Magic team president traveled to Michigan last weekend to speak in person with owner Rich DeVos, the conclusion was reached that not only was it time for Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith to go, but Howard, too.

That means the Magic will be proactive in soliciting deals once next week’s draft lottery results are in, clearing up the lay of the land in terms of which teams can offer the most value in return.

The source spoke to on condition of anonymity.

The latest news comes in the wake of this site’s report that Howard wants out of Orlando, and our subsequent report addressing possible landing zones for the NBA’s best center., meanwhile, was reporting that the Magic were considering hiring Shaquille O’Neal as general manager and finding a way for the Boston Celtics to release Doc Rivers from the remaining four years of his five-year contract as ways to entice Howard to remain.

O’Neal released a statement today saying he has no interest in the job.

I entertained a few questions about Howard earlier today in a live chat session. Click over the give it a read.

I also discussed the Howard situation on XTRA910 radio in Phoenix. Click here to listen to the interview.



Jerry Sloan intrigued by Bobcats, Magic jobs

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Jerry Sloan wants back into coaching.

The long-time coach of the Utah Jazz, who abruptly resigned midway through the 2010-11 season following a feud with star point guard Deron Williams, will be interviewing for one current vacancy and is interested in another.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Sloan has spoken with Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan about the coach opening with the NBA’s worst team and could meet with him as early as this week.

The Bobcats are looking for a new coach after letting go of Paul Silas after a 7-59 mark this season, the worst winning percentage in league history. They made the playoffs for the first time in 2010 but have a massive rebuilding project on their hands.

Sloan’s no-nonsense approach to the profession could potentially be a good fit for the Bobcats, who have a roster full of young players who don’t know how to win.

Sloan also told Fox Sports Florida that he would be interested in the vacancy with the Orlando Magic, who fired coach Stan Van Gundy and parted ways with general manager Otis Smith earlier this week. However, he told the Tribune that he has had no contact with the Magic, which may be a trickier situation.

With no coach or GM, the Magic may have to first hire a GM, who would want to hire his own coach. There is also the ongoing drama around superstar center Dwight Howard, whose impending free agency next summer has held the franchise hostage for months.

It’s hard to imagine the polar personalities of Sloan and Howard peacefully co-existing. The Magic are expected to trade Howard this summer but may have to find a team attractive to Howard, who wants a contract extension. The Brooklyn Nets are considered the front-runners.

Orlando made the playoffs five straight seasons under Van Gundy, including a trip to the 2009 Finals. But the Magic have been bounced in the first round in each of the last two seasons and are looking to rebuild as well.

Sloan has compiled 1,221 coaching wins with Chicago and Utah, ranking third on the all-time list. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.


Exclusive: Howard wants trade despite Magic ousting Van Gundy, Smith


Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, the events of yesterday notwithstanding, a source close to Howard tells

On the day coach Stan Van Gandy and general manager Otis Smith lost their jobs with the Magic, a source who has spoken with Howard recently said the All-Star center desperately wants to be traded prior to the start of next season.

And although the Brooklyn Nets are still considered the frontrunner, “it is not going to be a one-horse race,” the source said, listing the Mavericks, Knicks and — to a lesser degree — the Clippers and Lakers as among the destinations that would appeal to Howard.

When the news first broke Monday that Van Gundy had been fired and Smith had agreed to leave, the knee-jerk reaction was to assume that Howard had won the power struggle, and the Magic would now empower him to have a say in who the new hires would be — provided he agreed to sign a contract extension and commit to the Magic for the long term.

But in fact, the source said, Howard wants out of Orlando more than he ever did before in order to start a new chapter of his career. And it is well-known throughout the league that the Magic do not want to endure another soap opera season like the one they just experienced.

Orlando team executives are expected to meet soon with Howard as he recovers from the back surgery he underwent last month in California. If Howard tells them he wants out, they are expected to try to accomodate him and deal him to the highest bidder.

One piece of the puzzle that could influence Howard’s landing spot is whether a team acquiring Howard would be willing to take on the contract of Hedo Turkoglu, who is due to make $23.6 million over the next two seasons. The combined salaries of Howard and Turkoglu will be $30.6 million next season, and few teams will have the cap room or the assets to do a trade in which the salaries match.

One scenario that could improve the Nets’ chances to acquire Howard is if they win the draft lottery and get one of the top three choices in this June’s draft, which then could be bundled in a deal for Howard. (If the pick is No. 4 or lower, it goes to the Portland Trail Blazers as payment for the Nets’ acquisition of Gerald Wallace at the trading deadline.)

Wallace has a player option for next season that he must exercise by mid-June , and the Nets’ other marquee player — Deron Williams — plans to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, with the Mavericks believing they have a shot at convincing him to return to his hometown. But Williams’ future in Brooklyn would be solidified if the Nets could find a way to make a deal for Howard, who they have been trying to acquire since training camp last December.

Whatever the future may hold, Howard does not want his to be headquartered in Orlando, the source insisted.

“These are the days you dread in this business, but we feel it’s time for new leadership and new voices,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement.

Van Gundy had four straight 50-win seasons before going 37-29 this season, when he dealt with Howard’s frequent changes of heart regarding his future with the Magic. Late in the season, Van Gundy revealed that he knew that Howard had asked for him to be removed as head coach.

On the day of the trade deadline, Howard agreed not to opt out of his contract for next season — but he has since given no indication he is willing to ink a multi-year contract extension that the Magic would gladly give him.

Howard came out of the lockout expecting to be traded to New Jersey, but the Magic pulled out of the trade talks late in training camp, Howard spent an uneasy season in Orlando before being sidelined late in the season with a back injury that required surgery, and the Magic were ousted in five games by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.

Even if Howard is offered a say in who the next coach and general manager will be, the Magic will want him do sign an extension before ceding that type of power to him. Two coaches who worked with Howard on Team USA, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, are currently unemployed after being fired by the Knicks and Trail Blazers midway through this season. Several news outlets have reported that Michael Malone, the lead assistant in Golden State and the son of former NBA head coach Brendan Malone, is a favorite to be given consideration.

The Orlando Sentinel has already published a list of potential replacement candidates. Click to give it a read.